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June 2, 2017 // NiW Recap: A Personal Experience from JAX Tower/TRACON Controller Holly Denny

 Holly Denny (left) and Congressman Charlie Crist, D-Fla.

Who wants to party in Washington, D.C. on NATCA’s dime? Oh, I do! Who would have thought there would be so much more? 535 Congressional offices, 500 NATCA members, two days, one goal — and we rocked it! I am a newly certified CPC (certified professional controller) from Jacksonville (JAX) Tower/TRACON who was asked if I would like to get a little more involved and attend NATCA in Washington (NiW) 2017. During my years in training, I mainly tried to keep my head low and get through the training program, but now I had some time to spare so I figured, why not?

I arrived in Washington at the event hotel and immediately realized this is a much bigger event than I was expecting. NATCA posters and paraphernalia were everywhere. We had taken over the Hyatt. My interest for this event began to rise.

On Sunday before the opening reception, I went to the NATCA 101 workshop where I got to learn the background of NATCA and how the Union became who we are today. During registration, I received my welcome packet and learned about the fund-raising NATCA promotes. I never knew how involved NATCA is, not only with bettering our quality of work life, but giving back to local communities and people in need.

During the opening reception, I was able to meet other people in my region and mingle with controllers from surrounding facilities. It was extremely helpful to match faces with operating initials and have questions answered on the “likes and dislikes” of inter-facility coordination and functions.

As Monday arrived, I walked into this massive room with bright colors and big lights with all of NATCA’s regions and states labeled. I thought to myself, “Wow, they put a lot of work into this slide show.” I sat down and the presentation began. I received brief after brief of helpful and highly insightful knowledge. Air traffic controllers and our “type A” personalities — you give us a task and we will take it above and beyond what you ever thought it could be. Of course, because air traffic controllers are running this show, all of my NATCA/FAA questions were answered — and it only took eight hours. It helped me understand that NATCA wanted to take the time to provide in-depth answers. The care they took to make sure I understood was eye opening.

NATCA has their own building in Washington, and we have people working tirelessly, day in and day out, to ensure our members are fully protected in their employment. Safety and efficiency remain the top priority, but to maintain a dynamic National Airspace System (NAS), we must receive the stable funding stream we need to carry out our role as the safest in the world. NATCA staff is constantly reading and researching bills and budget proposals to ensure we are able to fight against proposals that could negatively impact that mission.

Each year, members of NATCA take time off of work and away from their families to come to Washington to sit with members of Congress and their staff for the purpose of one thing: discussing “the Ask.” Last year, we were highly successful with the signing of H.R. 5292, which streamlined the hiring process for controllers and ensured a path for graduates of the CTI (collegiate training initiative) program and military veterans. This year, the goal is to obtain signatures on a Congressional letter, initiated by Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif.-25 and Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y.-18 on the House side and Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla. and Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., on the Senate side, requesting the FAA be fully funded through fiscal year 2018.

On Tuesday, more than 500 NATCA members met with their members of Congress and their staff to do just that. During these meetings, we explained the negative impact that stop-and-go funding has on our training programs, hiring processes, and modernization. Our facilities are understaffed, our equipment is outdated, and Congress should not try to balance the budget on the backs of federal employees. We stood together and strong, stated our case, and urged representatives and senators to sign the letter to ensure we have the stable funding to maintain the NAS.

I want to thank the NATCA members involved in making this happen every year. I recognized all of the tiny details and special touches throughout this trip. You successfully armed me with the knowledge I need to be a NATCAvist and to work with my brothers and sisters for the greater good of our workforce.

Over these two days, I learned so much and have truly grown as a NATCA member. NATCA is here for you and cares for your wellbeing. They work tirelessly to improve your work environment and to raise your quality of life — and they want you to be a part of it. Attend NiW next year and you will agree. If you can’t make it next year, then come the year after. This is no “player’s club” or “sorority.” We are real people working real issues. We are NATCAvists!

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