Longtime NATCA Representative Rick Heckman Retires
Friday, December 21, 2012

By Dale Wright, Director of Safety and Technology

In October 2009, NATCA signed the Red Book agreement with the FAA. This signaled a changing environment for both the FAA and NATCA. We had seen firsthand the problems with technology projects developed without controller involvement. The Safety and Technology Department was staffed with only three people at the time with a technology coordinator, administrative assistant and the director. It was apparent with the new contract, new administrator and technology projects, NATCA was going to be in a position where we needed technical representatives.  

One of the most high profile projects at the time was the development and deployment of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). Industry was focused on getting this technology out, but there were major questions on how the controllers would accept the technology as well as how it would be used.  

As the department participated in several workgroup meetings in the Washington, D.C., area, we approached the National Executive Board with a request for an Article 48 representative to the Surveillance Broadcast Services (SBS) Office. While there were many dedicated and qualified members volunteering for the position, one kept coming to the top of any discussion on this position: Rick Heckman from Philadelphia (PHL). PHL Facility Representative Don Chapman assured us Mr. Heckman was the right person at the right time for the job. Little did we know at the time how correct Mr. Chapman was with this recommendation.

Rick was one of the first Article 48 Representatives for NATCA after the White Book. He blazed a trail for a group of NATCA members who are serving as Article 48 Representatives, workgroup members and those participating in Safety Risk Management (SRM) Panels. Mr. Heckman made himself available to members regardless of the time of day and area of the country, and he would listen to what the problems were at each facility with ADS-B and fusion. He reached out to facilities when there was word on the street there may be problems. His dedication to the membership was outstanding.

Mr. Heckman also displayed an ability to work through difficult issues with not only the FAA but also industry. His working relationship with the contractor support in the SBS Office enabled NATCA to reach out to other projects and emulate Mr. Heckman’s coordination style to ensure the membership was kept up to date. Mr. Heckman reached out to the FAA and requested an Article 48 Team be established to guide ADS-B deployment. This team is functioning on all cylinders today, and due to Mr. Heckman’s guidance, they will lead the membership in understanding technologies further down the road.

Mr. Heckman is retiring from the FAA on December 31, 2012. He certainly deserves to move into retirement knowing the membership and staff at the NATCA National Office truly appreciate the work he has put forth in the past three years for them. Mr. Heckman continued his detailed work until his last day as your Article 48 Representative. Eric Labardini (ZHU) is the new SBS Article 48 Representative, and Mr. Heckman has left him with the tools for a very smooth transition.

The Safety and Technology Department would like to thank Mr. Heckman for his outstanding work, friendship and support during his time as the Article 48 Representative to the SBS Office.