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Brothers and Sisters,
Another week has come to an end and I am hard pressed to put it all in an update, rather than bore you with the details of the hours I spent on airplanes and the volumes of reading material on privatization, IG reports, economic studies and press release that I brought with me, I will stick to the highlights. In and amongst all of the pages and email, I started the week with a quick visit to the national office to discuss a few pressing issues with John. At 8:00 Monday morning it was off to the airport to catch a flight to Las Vegas to join interim rep. training for our new bargaining units. I had the opportunity to address the group as well as to observe much of the training.
I am continually amazed by the dedication of our activists. At each meeting I see committed professionals concerned about not only their own futures, but also the future of their professions. In addition to the grueling schedule they are subjected to in rep training, the aircraft certification group got together at 7:30 in the morning to review issues of importance to them as a group.
Greg Llafet scheduled a meeting for me with the hotel group sales department to negotiate some fee reductions in light of the business we have added with NEB meetings and the interim class. We were successful in eliminated some fees and Greg and I examined some options for reducing the class expenses in order to provide training to more people and to streamline the vouchering process.
I left LAS Tuesday night to head up to ANC for the NAL regional meeting. My flight was delayed and I missed my connection in SEA. I finally arrived at ANC at 3:30 Wednesday morning and to my surprise was greeted by Dave Levesque, the NAL alternate RVP. Overwhelming hospitality from the membership has made my stay in Alaska one I will remember for a long time. I checked into the hotel, grabbed a few hours of sleep and joined the fac reps for lunch.
After lunch Jerry Whitaker asked if I had time to join him in meeting at Rep. Don Young’s office. They are investigating some AF issues in Alaska that affect our engineers and I was happy to attend. We met with the Congressman’s special assistant, a retired brigadier general who was a breath a fresh air and had a lot of questions about accountability and leadership in the FAA. We spoke about CMP (Corporate Maintenance Philosopy) at length and the final agreement with the FAA to cease CMP and return to national maintenance standards in Alaska.
I returned in time for the regional office open house then went back to my hotel, where I had no trouble falling asleep. In the morning I met the Fairbanks delegation for a ride to the meeting. I was provided plenty of time to brief the group on a myriad of national issues, including the current status of the privatization threat. That afternoon, I went to the regional office to meet engineers and members from the ARC group, specifically logistics. Conveniently, it was NATCA shirt day so our members were easy to spot.
Thursday night I spent several hours on e-mail, pages and various phone calls, which was good since I would accidentally cause irreparable harm to my cell phone on Friday morning. The 4-hour time difference severely limits the time available to communicate with the east coast. I spent the wee hours of Friday morning talking to John about the ATOP (oceanic) program. As I have mentioned in other updates, it is essential that we keep the oceanic modernization program on track because it has been aggressively targeted as potential contracting opportunity. Some airlines, which have invested substantially in avionics for Pacific routes feel they are getting a superior service from other nations and have gone so far as to publicly suggest petitioning ICAO to redelegate the Pacific to another nation.
I spent some time filling up next week’s schedule, including an appearance on Washington Journal and interviewing applicants for the systems administrator position that is currently vacant.
Then it was off to Fairbanks. The members of NATCA’s northernmost local have exceeded any reasonable expectation of hospitality. They went above and beyond the call to ensure I was escorted through their fair city and even toughed out –5 degree wx to show me every site in the city. While it was so enjoyable I feel like I have been on vacation for the last two days, it was not all fun and games. We talked a lot about the high washout rate at FAI, the CTI program and what steps NATCA can talk to improve the situation. FAI like many other facilities is already below required staffing and will be losing a number of controllers to retirement in the next few years.
Before working too hard, we gathered for lunch, went to see the dog sled races, toured the tower and socialized into the wee hours. I met a controller from a DoD facility nearby who wants to be represented by NATCA. After some discussion, we discovered he is most likely represented by AFGE, and NATCA cannot raid the unit. It was a productive evening and I learned a lot about the issues unique to the area. Between Runzhiemer’s assumptions, cold weather altimeter adjustments and a 28 degree variance for magnetic north, my head is swimming in details.
Tomorrow we will be visiting the North Pole, the pipeline and hopefully will be able to view the northern lights. It has been a beautiful snowy day here and I wish I could stay longer, but it is back to the office on Monday. But first I will stop on my way home Sunday to visit SEA’s temp tower with the now famous Brian Schimpf.