Weekly Update for March 23, 2001

March 23, 2001

Sunday, I had the pleasure of stopping in SEA on my way back from Alaska. Brian Schimpf was kind enough to meet me at the gate and escort my to their fancy new trailer that even comes equipped with spare port-a-johns. The visit was enlightening. The controllers raved about the work done by NATCA engineers to get them up and running after the earthquake and the teamwork is continuing. They are schedule to move into a less temporary tower in May and Brain says the engineers have been invaluable in the process. Each time the FAA says something can’t be done (like using laminated safety glass in the windows), one of our engineer brothers is saying how it can.

Then it was back to DC where I arrived at nearly 2:00 am to discover my luggage had decided to go on vacation without me. I had scheduled just enough time to go home, unpack, shower and come beck into the office, but since I had nothing to unpack, I grabbed a few winks instead.

Monday was fairly routine, catching up on paperwork, preparing for the board meeting and going over financials. I took a few press calls, got briefed on the weeks activities, met with Christine about filling the vacancy for administrative support in Legislative Affairs, as Leitha Miller has given her two weeks notice.

Tim Casten will be assisting in interviewing systems administrator applicants and we discussed the position, NATCA’s needs and the market rate for someone with SQL experience. For those that have spent time dealing with the National Office network, you are aware that it is extremely fragile and subject to a great deal of down time. Over the years we have spent an exorbitant amount of money on outside support to come in and fix problems. We are looking to hire someone that can get our system up to a robust state and correct problems without using outside support as often.

CSPAN called last week to schedule a live appearance on Washington Journal on Tuesday. Monday, they let us know that it would be Wednesday morning, which would require juggling some flights, but we never want to miss an opportunity to get our message out.

Tuesday I met with Paul McElroy who is working with Don Brown and Howie Bart on the NATCA history, which should be available for our 15th anniversary. If Paul calls you and asks for an interview, he is working for NATCA and is not some shady character digging for scandal. Please help him out if you can.

I rescheduled my Wednesday flight to RNO and met with Jose and Doug to prep for the CSPAN show. I spent the rest of the day meeting with various members of the staff on dozens of issues, talked to Carol Branaman about her upcoming speaking engagement and finished the millions of tiny little things that need to be taken care of after you have been out of the office for a week. It was not glamorous, but it was productive. Doug and Jose sent me home with 5 hours of hearing video to watch and a stack of papers on ATA’s recent press statements. Ed Merliss from ATA, who testified at the delay hearing with John, would be on the show with me.

Wednesday morning Doug and I went to the studio where I got a quick briefing on which is “my” camera and that I should not move once I am all clipped into the chair. The bad part was that they put me on a little booster cushion so my feet didn’t really touch the floor. The host let the show run about 15 minutes longer than planned so I guess they thought we were interesting. I have not seen the tapes but Doug says I need to smile a little more and not be so serious. It was fun, but I think I like radio better because they let me put my feet on the floor.

A quick stop at the office to check my messages, make a call or two and I was off to the airport. Unfortunately, one of the calls was to Phil Barbarello about the Manassas crash and the pending NTSB investigation. As with any crash, there were about 50 more calls and pages to be exchanged but we got everything scheduled, Paul Rinaldi, NEA ASI got party status on the investigation, Susan Grundman made arrangements to represent the members, Phil handled the drug testing issues sought out CISD and Tom Farrier did plenty of digging and found out a number of political issues surrounding the single engine Cessna crash that explains some of the attention. I am sure there are many other people working on it. I have instructed the office to refrain from any comment as we do not want to jeopardize our party status.

My flight to Phoenix was uneventful, however the connection out of PHX to RNO was oversold and about 12 of us were involuntarily bumped. During the lengthy denied boarding process I had the chance to meet one of the organizers of the Aviation World’s fair 2003, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of flight. It will be a 21-day event in Williamsburg, Virginia. It turns out she is interested in doing a day devoted to ATC. We followed up with literature at the conference and I will investigate further when I get back to DC.

I finally arrived in RNO and Thursday the conference began. Katie Wittig came with the trade booth and had everything set up and read to go hours ahead of time and things ran smoothly throughout the event. Controllers from RNO volunteered for booth duty and “don’t privatize me” buttons created a lot of discussion from the pilots visiting our booth. I did not talk to one person who thought it was anything but a bad idea, including two women from Transport Canada.

Friday morning I went to visit RNO tower. The tower is equipped with tools discarded by other facilities. They are looking forward to ETVS to replace the rotary phones and are scheduled to get a new tower, but the airport, National Guard and FAA are in a struggle over where to put it. Back to the conference to meet Carol Branaman, who is moderating a panel on ATC in the 21st century. Carol gave a fabulous speech which covered our issues including the threat of contracting out and privatization. Debby Kirkman from Mitre CAASD gave a presentation that laid out the “anatomy of a delay.” It was enlightening. The panel was both well attended and generated a lot of questions.

There is one day left of the conference then I will spend the remainder of the weekend skiing with my husband. I won’t be back in the office until after the NEB meeting next week. I don’t know what we did before cell phones and e-mail.

In Solidarity,

Ruth Marlin

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