NATCA Celebrates 50th Anniversary of IFATCA: Union's Involvement Has Helped International Organization's Stature Grow
Friday, October 14, 2011
As the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA) celebrates its 50th anniversary, we asked some NATCA members involved with the organization to share their thoughts on its history and where they see its future. These are their words:
Bill Holtzman, member of IFATCA Technical Operations Committee:
IFATCA exists to provide all controllers with a single, strong voice in the international air traffic community. That community includes government agencies, unions, academic institutions, equipment and aircraft manufacturers, pilots, government officials, airlines, private ATC providers, media, and others who have a stake in our business. Every year IFATCA studies present and future ATC issues across the globe and meets at an annual conference to establish policy concerning these issues.
Policies are generally broken into two areas: professional/legal and technical. Examples of the former include fatigue, liability, aging, human-machine interface, drug use, and the prosecution of controllers for errors. Criminal prosecution of controllers is a problem in many countries including Italy, Brazil and Japan, and IFATCA members work tirelessly to help our fellow controllers in these situations. The Professional and Legal Committee (PLC) handles this work. PLC helps raise awareness of the obstacles controllers overcome to do our job and crafts solutions to both global and local problems.
The Technical and Operations Committee (TOC) handles issues involving new ATC equipment and procedures. The industry is constantly creating ATC new tools. Many are impressive, but the deployment of these systems without thorough consideration of all potential impacts can be a serious threat to our profession and to each of us. In the past two years, TOC has studied and developed policy on topics including a global problem with SID-STAR phraseology, Runway Status Lights (RWSL), continuous descent operations, stop bars, fly-by vs. fly over, the effect of carbon trading, FMS design, and incorrect flight ID in the ADS-B environment.
IFATCA leadership and others use this policy as a roadmap in leading the industry to sound solutions. IFATCA examines instances where this policy is not followed and is therefore able to identify system hazards and work to get them resolved. Pro-active industry and ATC providers can even use IFATCA policy to improve their own procedures and products before they make it to the live environment. These policies are a win-win for the entire community. They don't necessarily prevent problems, but they are becoming more influential in the world.
The people on these committees are very knowledgeable, experienced, committed and hard working. They do their best to think through every aspect of a new policy, and the discussions often go on endlessly. The technical aspects of emerging technologies such as the latest FMS boxes and ADS-B systems are often staggeringly complex. With ever more money going into NextGen and its European version, the flow of these technologies shows no sign of slowing. It is a constant struggle to keep up with the stream of new gadgetry, and an even more complex task to envision future issues and determine mitigation strategies.
Still, the past 10 years have been some of IFATCA's best. IFATCA's influence grew remarkably under former President Marc Baumgartner, an amazing individual who speaks a half dozen languages but can also speak at great length about most any topic in ATC and never sleeps. IFATCA's inclusion on the ICAO Air Navigation Commission (ANC) was a major achievement that will have a lasting and positive impact on controllers and the global air traffic community and gave us "a seat at the table.”
At the heart of our success is credibility. By generating well-researched papers and adopting responsible and thoroughly debated policy, IFATCA lays the groundwork for continued success in leading the air traffic community.
Pat Forrey, IFATCA EVP, Technical; former NATCA president:
I have always personally believed that NATCA's involvement in IFATCA is not only important, but it is absolutely necessary to ensure our voice was heard in the international arena.
As the single largest provider of air traffic control services in the world, we had the responsibility to our members and the entire world to participate in the development of ATC procedures, phraseology, licensing, professional standards, safety regulations, and a host of other important issues affecting our profession. It's a big world and opinions and practices vary, but one common goal that all air traffic controllers strive for, is safety!
One voice, one world....
Dr. Ruth Stilwell, IFATCA Representative to ICAO; former NATCA EVP:
The World is Getting Smaller
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of IFATCA on October 20th, the International Day of the Air Traffic Controller, and begin preparations for NATCA's own 25th anniversary, it is time for nostalgia. Looking back on our profession and how much has changed, not only over the decades, but even in just our careers, I can't help but have a sense of wonder. Looking forward to the next 25, then 50 years, it is hard to imagine the advances that will be made. But one thing I know is, no matter what the technology or airspace looks like, the world will continue to get smaller.
Today you can fly non-stop from Newark to Singapore. That flight will be worked seamlessly by controllers in different countries, with different cultures, and different backgrounds, as it travels halfway around the globe. The passengers onboard won't give it a second thought. We are a global aviation network. As China, India, and South America see record growth in aviation, we will feel it here. We will see more flights, arriving from cities we have not seen before, more flight crews will make their first landings in the U.S. and more general aviation jets will be flying in from all over the world.
But it isn't just the performance of the aircraft that has changed, the ATC equipment and procedures have too. I have spent my entire career in the same facility, but I am not using a single piece of equipment that was there when I was a trainee. We aren't even working in the same room. As we move forward, the transformation will continue, but this time, the world is evolving with us.
Air Traffic Control systems all over the world are implementing new procedures, new technologies, and tackling the same issues of congestion, efficiency, and environment. We can all see and touch the changes in hardware and equipment, but in many ways the bigger changes are the ones we cannot put our hands on. We are no longer 190 separate countries trying to figure out our own ways of upgrading ATC, building proprietary systems then trying to figure out how we they will work together. We are designing and building those systems together so that the global network benefits from each investment.
Europe is developing the Single European Sky to take advantage of US style efficiency, ABS-B and PBN allows developing countries to build state of the art infrastructures. Remote areas in Mongolia are dealing with the same issues as remote areas in Alaska. We are truly a global profession. New equipment, new procedures, and new technologies are being developed and deployed around the world that will affect controllers in the U.S.
NATCA knows the value of bringing controllers together. At every meeting, convention, and seminar, we reap the benefits of controllers getting together to share experiences, discuss challenges, and develop solutions. IFATCA takes that approach across borders and oceans. The systems and structures we have used in the U.S. to strengthen our profession, are available to us on the world stage through IFATCA. As we move forward in our increasingly small world we can continue to build our International Federation and our role in it.
The next 50 years of IFATCA will be an exciting time for NATCA, allowing us to cut through the PR from manufacturers and providers and talk directly to the controllers. As we hear about new technologies that promise to transform our profession, we can get the facts from each other. The global network between controllers, sifting through the rhetoric and promise of technology to discuss the real impacts on controllers and our jobs, is every bit as important as the global infrastructure. I have always said the ATC is a team sport, now as the world is getting smaller, it is important for our team to get bigger.
Darrell Meachum, IFATCA executive vice president of finance and board member, former NATCA NSW RVP:
In 1944, during World War II, 52 nations meeting in Chicago established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) to ensure international cooperation and uniformity in regulations, standards, procedures and organization regarding civil aviation matters. Today, 190 nations cooperate under the UN/ICAO umbrella to promote the safe and orderly growth and development of international civil aviation.
A few months later, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) formed in Havana, Cuba in April 1945. IATA has since grown to 230 members from more than 140 countries from every part of the world, from 57 members from 31 nations, mostly in Europe and North America, in 1945.
The International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA) was created in London during a conference of pilots' associations held in April 1948. The express purpose for founding IFALPA was to provide airline pilots a formal means to interact with the then, newly formed UN body, ICAO. IFALPA has grown to over 104 Member Associations representing over 100,000 airline pilots worldwide.
In February 1949, the Convention on International Civil Aviation created the Air Navigation Commission (ANC), one of the three main bodies of the ICAO. Whereas the airline and pilot groups (IATA and IFALPA) were founding members of the ANC, IATA and IFALPA are the only organizations granted permanent observer status to the ICAO ANC. The ANC's mandate is to recommend to the ICAO Council the most appropriate course of action in the development, adaption, and amendment of ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). While named by Contracting States and appointed by the Council, the Commission's fifteen technical professionals do not act as official representatives of their respective States; but rather as independent experts.
Air traffic controllers were relatively late to the party, but from its founding in Amsterdam on October 20, 1961, the response from controllers to the idea of a federation was immediate and universal. Originally envisioned by 12 founding European ATC associations as a European Federation of Air Traffic Control Associations, the founders of IFATCA recognized at the founding conference the necessity for a global organization to provide controllers an international voice and opportunity to positively influence the safety and growth of global civil aviation. Since its inception in 1961, IFATCA has grown to 137 member associations representing more than 50,000 air traffic controllers worldwide.
Forty years transpired before ICAO granted IFATCA observer status to the ICAO ANC, but only IATA and IFALPA retain the privileges associated with permanent observer status.
In the 10 years since ICAO granted IFATCA observer status, IFATCA has grown in international stature and begun to influence operating specifications, balancing the requirements of airlines with those of air navigation service providers and air traffic controllers. At times, this process can be intensely political and economics is a major consideration of both States and private companies and their Federations.
Unlike many Federations with dozens of paid staff, IFATCA is almost purely a volunteer organization, with one paid employee managing the office in Montreal. IFATCA is officially headquartered in Switzerland.
The goals of the Federation include promoting safety, efficiency, and regularity of international air navigation, aiding the development of air traffic control systems, procedures and facilities, and advancing knowledge and professional efficiency among air traffic controllers.
NATCA is IFATCA's largest member association, but few people realize our subscription fees are capped at an amount much lower than what we would pay without the cap. Regardless of the cap, NATCA provides substantial financial support and has contributed to IFATCA's success in many ways. Three of the 11 current IFATCA Executive Board members are from NATCA; and NATCA provides and financially supports IFATCA's representative to ICAO's ANC in Montreal. NATCA's support for this critical position would not have been possible if not for the contractual terms won in the 2009 collective bargaining agreement.
From 1995, when Barry Krasner brought U.S. air traffic controllers back into IFATCA (PATCO was an IFATCA member), NATCA's Leadership has rightly realized that global aviation is making the world a smaller place, one where standardization would be decided solely by others, if not for NATCA's direct influence and input. During the height of the period when the FAA imposed work and pay rules, NATCA was still involved in activities at which FAA was a major participant or sponsor because IFATCA sent NATCA representatives as IFATCA representatives. People present will confirm FAA was none to happy to see NATCA expertise at these meetings, and we have our membership in the Federation to thank for the opportunity to continue to participate in US sponsored, global standardization activities. Then and now, these efforts are destined to affect the regulations, procedures and technology US controllers employ to perform our jobs.
IFATCA is not a Union, though about half of IFATCA's members are industrial trade unions, like NATCA. Every NATCA member involved in air traffic control is a member of IFATCA, and more and more NATCA members are starting to see the importance of representing our members' interests beyond the FAA, e.g., before other US institutions and outside the U.S. itself. NATCA has become stronger for recognizing that other branches of government, and international organizations like ICAO are critical venues for NATCA to maintain a strong presence and voice.
On October 20, 2011, the International Day of the Air Traffic Controller, IFATCA celebrates 50 years of standing for professional representation of air traffic controllers around the world. NATCA wishes all air traffic controllers a happy birthday and IFATCA continued success.
Adell Humphreys, IFATCA Committee Secretary; NATCA Acting Director of Membership and Marketing:
Over the last ten years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as a committee secretary at the annual IFATCA Conferences. These events have enabled me to meet and interact with air traffic controllers worldwide, and I’ve learned that they share many of the same frustrations as their U.S. counterparts. But they also share the same pride in their occupation, and a desire to improve their working conditions and profession.
Similar to NATCA’s biennial conventions, a great deal of time is spent at IFATCA’s annual conference on administrative issues. Even though IFATCA has been in existence for 50 years, members still find things that need to be “tweaked” in their constitution and governing documents. The conference program is structured and formal, but there is always time after meetings for much-needed socialization between participants. It is a matter of national pride for a country to host the conference, and I am grateful that I have been able to be a part of NATCA’s team at these events and able to assist IFATCA in their important work.
Dale Wright, NATCA Director of Safety and Technology and former IFATCA executive vice president of finance:
IFATCA serves a very important role for the air traffic controllers worldwide. This is being realized more than ever at this time due to the civil unrest in many countries due to financial issues facing Europe and other parts of the world. Controllers have been able to provide support to one another with IFATCA being at the center of this effort. NATCA has provided support to many IFATCA members over the years through assistance with membership dues, disaster relief, donation of laptop computers and assisting operational issues of IFATCA’s member associations which are experiencing growth with their air traffic control system.
NATCA’s involvement with IFATCA has grown significantly over the years. As NextGen grows and SESAR from Europe sprints toward implementation it is imperative controller input be heard. This is happening through dialogue between NATCA and IFATCA through each organization’s representatives. NATCA attends meetings here in the United States on the behalf of IFATCA and NATCA strives to include members to participate in these events. One area in particular where NATCA has utilized our IFATCA membership is runway safety. Elliot Brann from LAX NATCA has been active with the IFATCA Global Aviation Domain Team (GADT) and Ric Loewen (DFW NATCA) presented for IFATCA at the recent ICAO Regional Runway Safety Symposium in Miami. Through NATCA members being active with IFATCA teams and committees the world is receiving the input of NATCA members, which we hope will lead to a more consistent air traffic control system worldwide.
NATCA provides members who serve IFATCA in Leadership Roles. The first NATCA member to serve on IFATCA’s Executive Board was Martin Cole (ZDC NATCA Retired). Mr. Cole served as IFATCA’s EVP Technical, which is the most labor-intensive position on the board outside of the President. Mr. Cole’s leadership enabled NATCA to gain trust among the IFATCA membership. Since Mr. Cole’s initial term NATCA has always held at least one IFATCA Executive Board position.