NATCA, FAA to Begin Flight Deck Training Program
Thursday, July 28, 2011

NATCA and the FAA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the procedures for bargaining unit employees to participate in the voluntary Flight Deck Training (FDT) program, previously known to many as the FAM or familiarization program.

The intent of the FDT program, which will become effective Aug. 1, is to provide participants with meaningful training and the opportunity to improve their understanding of the National Airspace System.

"The Flight Deck Training program should be an essential component of an air traffic controller training program," says Hamid Ghaffari, NATCA's Western Pacific regional vice president and lead on the FDT program. "The ability to interact with flight crew and observe flight deck operations will greatly aid all of our younger generation of controllers to provide an even higher level of service to the users of the National Airspace System."

Continued Ghaffari: "NATCA has been working with the FAA for close to 18 months on the Flight Deck Training program. Our collective work on the Flight Deck Training program is a great example of what can be achieved when two sides decide to collaborate and focus on the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System."

Through the participation of Ghaffari and fellow Executive Board members Bryan Zilonis and Phil
Barbarello, NATCA was present throughout the process to address any possible problems with the program. These individuals reviewed the FAA's proposal, participated in a telcon discussion with management, and ultimately offered up a counter proposal to bring about the final product. Currently, they are working on the requirements to allow flights on cargo carriers (i.e. UPS, Fed-ex, etc.), which they hope will become available during the first 30 days.
Unlike the FAM program, there will be a much more varied list of requirements from airline to airline. For example, Delta (when they are up and participating) will be requiring passports for all FDT participants. Alaska Airlines, who will be ready on Aug. 1, has a four-page list of requirements, including a requirement that no posting be made that can be construed as speaking on behalf of Alaska on any Web page, internet newsgroup/message board, discussion group, list serve, blog or chat room. It appears that Alaska will require passports, as well, for any flight over Canadian airspace.

The program team is working on adding airlines every day and is hopeful that, after the initial six-month test period, they will see a roll-out of the full Flight Deck Training program, which will include flight deck training flights on General Aviation aircraft and military. 

The airlines that will be available for FDT flights on Aug. 1 are:

  • United (not Continental yet)
  • Frontier
  • Republic
  • Skywest
  • Alaska

Airlines that are close but won't be ready by Aug. 1 are:

  • Southwest
  • Great Lakes
  • JetBlue
  • AirTran
  • Delta

All facilities have been sent packages that should be arriving this week, which include all the needed documentation to begin the FDT program. There will be training that will be required prior to participating in the FDT program.

Click here to view the FDT MOU.
Click here to read the FDT Notice governing the initial period.