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March 4, 2016 // Fifty-Six Does Not Need to Be the End of Your NATCA Career

Many air traffic controllers who reach mandatory retirement at age 56 have alternative options to continue working in a field related to air traffic control. The FAA offers employment options in air traffic control automation, a site-specific keyboard functionality controllers use on a daily basis to control aircraft within a TRACON or a center. A small and little-known group of NATCA bargaining unit employees within each air traffic control option perform adaptation functionality at both types of facilities. Each automation group is a represented bargaining unit under the NATCA multi-unit collective bargaining agreement.

“Air traffic control is not theoretical, it cannot be learned by reading about it in a book,” said one Operational Support Facilities (OSF) Terminal Automation Expert, Adaptation Specialist, and former controller. “The experience air traffic controllers have and their ability to communicate with other controllers bring valuable skills to any automation platform. If you are a self-starter looking for new challenges, look into automation.”

There are 10 OSF located within or near TRACONs throughout the National Airspace System (NAS). Field Automation Support Teams (FAST) are located on-site at centers. Both groups work on a daily basis to ensure that each site is optimized through building, maintaining, and continuously updating the system’s site adaptation, with OSF employees working on Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS), and FAST employees working on En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) platforms. Each system is unique, and OSF and FAST employees are essential to the success of these systems throughout the life cycle of all ATC automation platforms within the NAS.

Controllers and NATCA-represented employees can bid on OSF and FAST unit job opportunities. Don’t miss the opportunity to remain an active, vibrant part of NATCA, and make an enormous difference in building and deploying new technology.

During an open season for OSF and FAST last year, NATCA saw an incredible amount of interest — with membership rising from 15 to 70 percent eligible membership within the OSFs.

“These OSF and FAST employees are vitally important to the NAS and to each and every facility out there,” said NATCA’s Article 48 Lead for Terminal Automation Mitch Herrick. “The work they do is amazing. Keeping experienced controllers engaged after they retire is particularly vital to ensuring that the automation system performs and behaves exactly like the controllers need it to. This is a great opportunity that we need to make our members aware of.”