Weekly Update for March 2, 2001

This past week, I have been locked away in New Port Rhode Island for the Spring/Summer 2001 leadership meeting, with fellow brothers and sisters from the Great Lakes, Eastern, New England and Southern region NATCA.  The conference had its good points and bad points, much like any meeting of this nature.
First, let me reiterate that controllers in the FAA are the best in the world when it comes to safety and efficiency.  Don't let the newspaper articles and nay-sayers convince you otherwise.  The FAA delivers 99% of all air traffic operations on time to the final destination; our safety record is even better.  John and Ruth have been doing a fantastic job of utilizing the talent in our communications department, and in their personal contacts with user groups, to battle the demons of privatization.  A large part of the momentum can also be attributable to the dedication and hard work of members, FacRep's, and legislative activists across the country.  Let's keep up the good fight!
But that doesn't mean we sit still and relish in the great strides made on behalf of the flying public.  We need to always look to improve on what works, and change those areas that don't.  One of the key messages for all working controllers is to constantly improve in our communication between each other and the pilots traversing the system.  If you recall, communication was the major thrust of Spring/Summer 2000.  I know for a fact that we didn't really follow up as well as we should have last year, and that may ring sour for our work force with this year's initiative, try not to let it.  Changes like this require time and effort on everyone's part to mature.
However, I think we have identified that in order to engage controllers in effectively communicating with pilots, ops sups, traffic management and the command center, we need to involve controllers more intimately in the process, and they have to see action and results.  Far too often, controllers wonder why they are not being listened to when they relay significant weather and deviations, or sitting around twiddling their thumbs while aircraft are sitting on the ground.  As an agency, we don't react to severe weather as well as we could or should. 
Another area we need to reinforce concerns trust; between each other and other facilities.  This will be even harder to realize, since we are used to not trusting another controller when they say "I can't take another aircraft," or "keep 'em coming" only to be shut off.  With information we understand, and with understanding, we will bend over backwards to help each other out.  I don't think anyone believes that we will realize an incredible sea change in major delay reduction.  But I do expect that we will make some great strides into managing our traffic more efficiently, which will increase safety and provide the level of service we all strive to provide.
Over the next several weeks, all FacRep's and managers will be tasked with determining the most effective way to involve the controllers in delivering two way communication between the operational positions, traffic management, and pilots, as well as effective ways to briefing our bargaining unit.  They will also be looking at initiatives that will enhance safety and increase efficiency where those opportunities exist. 
I ask all of you to remember that the proponents of privatization and commercialization have the Administration's ear.  Furthermore, I know all controllers want to provide the best service possible to the users of the system, so long as safety is not jeopardized.  I think S2K+1 initiatives go hand in hand with our desire to provide exceptional service and beat back the notion that a private corporation can do a better job than we can.  Please engage yourselves and your members in this process, it really is the right thing to do for the system.
NAR - Last Wednesday, John Carr and Joe Fruscella met with Bill Peacock in an attempt to finalize an agreement concerning all issues related to national airspace redesign.  Unfortunately, the parties were not able to reach agreement surrounding save pay protection for developmental and CPC in training BUE's at facilities where the CI may fall due to potential airspace changes.  The agency has stated that they will respond by next Tuesday; hopefully we will be able to put this issue aside and concentrate on fixing our airspace structure.
CPC Training Failure/Withdrawal - Language proposed by the Union will hopefully be delivered to the agency early next week; I'll keep all informed.
Retirement - Just a reminder, please identify any BUE's who will not have 20 years good time by the time they reach age 56 and forward their names and facility to me or Ken Montoya.  NATCA is trying to have the House introduce a bill that will allow these individuals the opportunity to work past age 56 but only until they acquire 20 years of good time, very similar with the provisions of FERS. 
Operational Errors - Once again, the Great Lakes region is leading the nation in the greatest percentage reduction in operational errors for FY 2001, we are down 31%.  AGL-505 has done some analysis on operational errors, and to date, more than 50% have occurred within the first 20 minutes of being assigned to a position with less than 7 aircraft on frequency.  I don't know what this suggests, other than maybe awareness is a factor.  Maybe there is a way to reinforce our awareness without relying on the failed theory of position relief overlap...
GAO Investigation on Delays - The GAO will be conducting interviews/investigations at several facilities over the next several months.  For NGL, they will be in the Chicago and Minneapolis areas, but we don't have a time frame just yet.  More info when I get some.
New NO Employee - The NATCA Labor Relations department has hired a new LR specialists.  Her name is Tracy Levine, an attorney who was most recently employed by Bill Osborne, NATCA's outside counsel.  Welcome aboard Tracy!
New Hires - The agency is tentatively planning to hire 1000 new controllers, 600 to get to our 15,300 number by October 1, 2001, and 400 for attrition.  It is yet unclear to me if the 1000 will be hired before FY 2002 or between now and the end of FY 2002.  I'll try and get some clarification and report back.
A48 Team Members - Congratulations to SABAT team members from the NGL, Frank Feresta (ZAU) and Otto Boat (ZID).  Also to our runway safety team members Craig Burzych (ORD) and Dick Pinkston (CLE), who will be working on phraseology and memory enhancement respectively.  Good luck gentlemen, and please keep us informed...
With that, I think I'll call it a night.  Next week I'll be in Cleveland Monday and DC on Tuesday for a meeting with the newly formed Classification Advisory Board in an effort to provide some historical perspective to the classification standard.  This is their first meeting.  On Wednesday and Thursday, I'll be in Indianapolis for the S2K+1 briefings; I am hoping to visit a few other facilities in that hub and will let the FacRep's know as soon as I figure it out.  On Friday, I'll be in Chicago at a meeting with Chris Blum and C90.
Sometime over the next three weeks, I'll be setting up telecons with all facilities.  I'll probably do each hub, one a day and all of the centers at once.  I'll let everyone know the schedule well in advance, so start jotting down issues...  Finally, I thank all of you for doing another spectacular job this week in keeping the skies safe and moving the traffic.  Have a great weekend!

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