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So as not to be accused of sedition, let's say I'm just very familiar with the air traffic control (ATC) system.  As a bookend to this diary about allowing more foreign control of domestic airlines, by AHiddenSaint, I'll give a glimpse of a related story.

Air traffic control is yet another piece of the national security infrastructure that is often forgotten about.  There is a very serious, very quiet push to privatize ATC.  Some smaller facilities are already contracted out and a handful of them to non-US companies.  

The big money is in the larger facilities and, though they won't yet admit it publicly, the FAA Administrator Marion Blakey is doing all she can to grease the wheels for all out removal of ATC from the government fold.  

read more...beyond the bend

The first step towards privatization was, a couple years ago, when Bush declared ATC "not inherently governmental".  Everything since then continues to put the pieces in place to subject ATC to the very biased Bush privatization free-for-all.

Typical of the Bush Administration, (remember  what's happening at the National Park Service?) there are a great deal of similarities within the newly created FAA Air Traffic Organization (ATO). At times it's as if the management of air traffic has suddenly been taken hostage by drunken pirates. Instability is the norm now.  Rule changes are chaotic and punitive measures (firings) are becoming a frequent threat.   The head of the ATO has been quoted as saying that "causing anxiety" is a great way to pave the way for change in an organization.  A first line supervisor said yesterday, "they've got everybody scared right now, and I mean everybody".

In fact, the very creation of the ATO is, by my reckoning, simply a way to make it easier to deliver ATC on a silver platter to the most well connected bidder when the time comes.

What used to be a job virtually all controllers loved and took immense pride in has changed dramatically in the past 3 years.  At the core of it is the pressure to privatize, but more insidiously, it's the unspoken attitude coming from the top, that all the problems at the FAA (and aviation in general) would be suddenly fixed if they could just rid themselves of the controllers (and their union).

This couldn't be farther from the truth.

Actually, the job the controllers are doing is one of the things that's going right in ATC.  The interaction with the pilots is still uniformly professional, and across the board, the controllers take great pride in causing as little delay as possible; always, with safety first and foremost. They are well paid professionals that have a very personal stake in what happens to the ATC system (though not as highly paid as FAA propaganda would suggest).  

In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, controllers can also, at times, be obstinate, controlling, opinionated, perfectionists.  But they take great pride in playing an important role in an amazingly safe air traffic system.  

One of the tragic consequences privatization will be to subject ATC funding to the ups and downs of the aviation industry, and they are currently moving to fund ATC exclusively through (airline and private) user fees. Good years for the airlines will mean status quo, bad years will mean just a little more pressure to cut corners with air safety.

One of the Cato-lite think tanks has been twisting arms for privatization for years.  Lockheed and Boeing are two of the parties said to be interested in the lucrative contracts, but foreign countries also have interested parties.

And this is all a backdrop to the current collective bargaining negotiations taking place between the air traffic controllers union (NATCA) and the FAA.  The FAA is playing loose with the facts and putting a great deal of pressure on the controllers.  

Frankly they want to bust the union, then sell out air traffic control to their golfing buddies.  
...Not necessarily in that order.

Click here to take action to support Air Traffic Controller's Union.

Originally posted to TheMank on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 06:46 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We need Dem Swiftboaters (none)
    Why can't we  have a group on call that can Swiftboat things the President does. In 24 hours Republicans can have ads running on all of the major cable news networks saying Kerry did this Clinton did this, support Alito etc. Why aren't Dems doing this. Money is money if Dems gave money for these ads CNN and Fox would run them. This is one key reason we lose the public debate.

    I am only 27 and know that Regan ruined ATC when he fired the striking Air controllers years ago. I would imagine other people remember this also and do not for there saftey want this to happen again. We just have to get the word out.

    PS: Who thinks that Haliburton will be running the ports after this month. What a perfect US company that can do the job

    •  wouldn't that be the icing on the cake (none)
      ...giving Halliburton the ports contract.  Talk about people that can't shoot straight.  The ineptitude of the Bush cronies is truly frightening.

      And we trust them to 'dispose' of air traffic control responsibly?

      ...the train's got its brakes on and the whistle is screaming.

      by themank on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 07:39:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Heard differently re the ATC strike (none)
      I heard that the scabs had everything working fine after a short time after Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers. It sure doesn't seem to have been a disaster for his administration, although it certainly was one for the workers.
      •  bad for the airlines, though (none)
        The strike took a toll on airlines like Braniff.  All in all, it was very costly.  I've heard no one would have done it the same way twice; Reagan, PATCO, etc.

        ...the train's got its brakes on and the whistle is screaming.

        by themank on Fri Mar 10, 2006 at 03:44:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Pay cuts will make us 'safer'? (none)
    According to the Cult of Bush.

    I have heard they want to cut controllers pay by 30%.  I sure do not want to fly with disgruntled controllers.  They deserve every penny they make with the stress they deal with and the precision their job requires.

    And Bush will somehow claim it will make us safer from al Qaeda, and richer too.

    That sounds like the Bush I know.  First keep everything secret (except from your friend's golfing buddies). Then quietly slip them another piece of the infrastructure of the United States to go along with their generous tax cut.  

    What's next, letting Blackwater have the Border Patrol or maybe the US Marshals contract?  

    I aent to the 'action site' and sent my email!

    •  good (none)
      every little bit helps, so I'm told.  They count the emails.  

      They say air traffic controllers don't 'produce' a product, but they do.  They produce confidence that the air traffic system is safe.

      but I guess that kind of thinking is 'old school'.  The new system is based on inventing 'metrics' to follow like baseball stats.  And while your head is down reading your metrics you crash into the wall.

      ...the train's got its brakes on and the whistle is screaming.

      by themank on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 07:47:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Pan Pan Skyhawk 6878C VFR Flight Just went IMC (none)
    Requesting IFR clearance.

    Response: Skyhawk 6878C, Switch Freq 123.45 and state credit card number.

    American Engineer :== loser!

    by jnmorgan on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 07:42:51 PM PST

  •  As every aircraft owner knows (none)
    the bill will come through Oklahoma placing a lien on your aircraft.  Real or imagined charges...how you gonna prove you weren't in there?

    American Engineer :== loser!

    by jnmorgan on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 07:49:03 PM PST

  •  hey! (none)
    but for a small recurring yearly fee...Lockheed will adapt your transponder to broadcast your credit card number!  Let's hope it isn't past it's limit...or that the phone lines to the credit card help desk in Bangalore aren't down.

    the WalMartization of Air Traffic Control.

    ...the train's got its brakes on and the whistle is screaming.

    by themank on Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 07:54:25 PM PST

    •  Squawk MasterCard or Visa (none)
      Transponders will be mandatory in all general aviation aircraft and ole "Cridit Card" Joe Biden will be sure that his banking and credit card buddies get the exclusive rights to all ATC charges.

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