March 2022 New England Bi-Monthly Regional Update #2
From Bryan Krampovitis, NATCA New England ARVP
At the end of this month, and for the first time since the spring of 2019, NATCA will be hitting Capitol Hill for NATCA in Washington (NiW). NATCA in Washington is our annual legislative event where we send NATCA legislative activists to every house and senate office, to advocate for laws that improve our profession. Unlike convention that needed to take place in December per our constitution, NiW will be our first major event since the onset of COVID. NATCA chose to host this event, which is a sign we are truly on our way out of this pandemic.
For some, this could be the first NiW taking place since you were hired into the agency. For others hired just before COVID, this is the first NiW happening while you are a CPC and you’re focusing on anything other than training. I wanted to take a minute and explain what happens at NiW, and why it is one of the most important events NATCA hosts each year.
NiW (historically) begins with a full day of training and briefings on the legislative issue which will be the focus for the week. There are briefings by our national president, executive vice president, and our government affairs staff. These briefings are used to get everyone familiar with what we are going to “ask” of our legislators during meetings later in the week. There are also classes explaining the makeup of a typical congressional office and best practices for having a meeting with a member of congress. Most years, we also have a few members of both the House and Senate speak at the event.
The second day is usually split between training in the morning and hitting The Hill for meetings. Each state has an experienced legislate advocate that serves as the state coordinator. Prior to NiW, these state coordinators schedule meetings with each congressional office, usually by contacting staffers they have built a relationship with over many years. This day is usually long with many miles of walking from office to office and advocating our lawmakers on behalf of NATCA supported legislation. After this first day of meetings, NATCA advocates don’t get a break as we usually host a congressional reception where members of Congress can come by, have a quick bite to eat, take a photo, and we can get one last pitch in for the piece of legislation NATCA is supporting. Day three is usually another half day of meetings that couldn’t fit into day two, and then travel home.
It is a long road to get legislation passed. Sometimes we are planning the next NiW before last year’s event shows its true value. Many good things have come out of NiW, for instance, some controllers in the FAA today were only hired because of legislation supported at NiW a few years ago. HR5292 increased the maximum age air traffic controllers could be hired to 35 years old, four years higher than the previous law allowed. It also made the FAA develop hiring practices that favored military veterans with ATC experience, along with refining the way civilian hires were selected. The year this legislation was NATCA’s ask, we visited every congressional office and asked for co-sponsorship on HR5292. The exact language we were supporting ended up being added to a larger bill and passed months later.
While this year’s NiW format will be different from NiW in the past, it is a sign that we are getting back to normal and putting this pandemic behind us. This event is going to reignite this union and get our legislative arm back into action. I look forward to NiW, and recommend you keep an eye out for everyone’s recap of the event in the beginning of next month. If attending NiW is something you would be interested in taking part in, please talk to your FacRep and sign up to attend NATCA’s Basic Legislative Activism Training or “LAT” class.
From Curt Fischer, Collaboration Facilitator, Eastern Service Area North, A90
Normally I use this space to update our members in New England on our current efforts over the past month, the progress we have made in the New England Region, or to explain our ongoing collaboration efforts to which I am a part. But this month I want to look at union membership, employee involvement, and the importance of the collective. The importance of staying in the fight and not fleeing when adversity is encountered or when decisions do not fall your way. An ideal we have seen championed recently in the ongoing war with leaders refusing to leave the fight.
Effecting change on issues that you are passionate about takes personal effort in concert with a vehicle to drive the desired change into fruition. NATCA provides you with that vehicle to effect change locally, regionally, and nationally.
At the local level, change can be had by articulating your views at membership meetings, by running for an elected position in NATCA, or by getting involved with a workgroup or committee. These avenues to champion your thoughts and ideas are powerful. Local safety councils, professional standards, training reps, and review boards to name a few are the result of NATCA’s vision of member involvement in their workplace.
On a regional or national level legislative activism in NATCA is another effective change agent. Lobbying those that make the laws that govern policy is not only an enjoyable and rewarding use of your time it is also very effective in producing tangible results. NATCA in Washington, our premier yearly legislative event, is being held this month. NIW is an unapparelled opportunity for members to receive education, training, and most importantly results in the political arena.
National NATCA involves many Article 114 reps on a wide range of projects. Each rep uses their controller perspective to make better decisions and an improved workplace for our members.
In contrast to getting involved, members leaving NATCA in protest over decisions has the opposite effect. In opting out, the employee’s voice is muted and the percentage of those that support the opposing view shift away from the vacating individual. For example, say 4 out of 10 coworkers support an issue and as a result, the decision goes the way of the majority. If then the minority member quits the union in protest, support for the minority position is weakened by almost 7 percentage points. Hardly an effective strategy to advance your position forward. In addition, reduction in union membership diminishes the union’s bargaining capability resulting over time in reduced pay and benefits, diminished working conditions, and reduced safety. Studies show that workers’ wages are 3.1% smaller in states where right-to-work laws are in effect, employer-provided health insurance is lower and retirement and pension plans are significantly less. So, leaving NATCA for financial gain is equally an ineffective strategy.
The way to be that agent of change, to get things done and make your voice heard is not to withdraw but rather to involve yourself. NATCA has worked hard to get employees involved at all levels. Article 114 was added into our Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2016 which cemented Collaboration into our culture and thereby structurally changing the way in which our workplace involves its employees. In Collaboration Skills Training and Interest-Based Communication Training, we teach the involvement spectrum. In workplaces with high employee involvement, employees enjoy work better, have ownership in the decision-making process and the organization gets better results.
Recently, I read a comment on social media asking to have someone explain to them why if they get out of the Union today can they not stop paying dues tomorrow. The member seemed to be advocating for a change of a long-standing process (not changed in 33 years) whereby membership withdrawal submitted via SF Form 1188 in January of any given year will take effect the first full pay period following March 1. Wanting to change a long-standing process that seems unjust or no longer applicable to our fast-paced world requires listening to all interests and then offering up a solution that both sides can support. Simply withdrawing from the discussion changes nothing. In leaving, the ability to be that agent of change is weakened, and leaving weakens the coworkers you leave behind. Don’t just take my word. Listen to former NATCA President Paul Rinaldi’s “Our Collective Spirit is their Enemy” or listen to Tupac Shakur in the song “Last Wordz” or maybe Winston Churchill in June 1941 or Patrick Henry in March 1799 or Ancient Greek storyteller Aesop whom all exclaimed, “United we stand. Divided we fall”. Together we are all stronger, more effective, and more clearly heard. The choice is yours.
From Lisa Fulford, NATCA New England Training Rep, A90
The Agency has finally lifted training restrictions for all facilities, and all previously restricted facilities are now able to train again. Last week, New England District averaged 12+ hours of training, per trainee. For trainees that maintain currency that meets the NTI’s goal, and is just slightly under the goal for trainees who do not maintain operation currency.
Currently, we have 12 out of 14 facilities that are training, as MHT and PWM do not have any developmentals at this time. ZBW, SYR, BED, and BOS posted really great numbers for last week, while some of our facilities struggle with the seasonal traffic. Overall, NE did a great job meeting the NTI goals, once we were allowed to train in all of our facilities.
The district is hosting an OJTI class from April 5th through the 7th, at Murphy Drive in Nashua. Jeff Aulbach, ZBW, has been cadre for most of our OJTI classes this year, and I want to thank him for his dedication to training the next generation of OJTIs. Taryn Johnson has also helped with training our cadre. We are extremely short on OJTI cadres in the district, and while several have raised their hand to attend training, we have been unable to get headquarters to host a class.
I am working with my counterpart, Ed Angel, and we will hopefully have a class scheduled for late April or in May. If you are interested in becoming an OJTI cadre AND have not previously submitted your name to your FacRep, please do ASAP. As always you can reach out to our team at TEBWTraining@gmail.com
From Steve Schefcik, NATCA New England Professional Standards Rep, PWM
Professional Standards is a program that is something all of us controllers can and should utilize to the maximum extent possible. Working in an industry where safety is the #1 priority does not allow any room for conflict or distractions in the workplace. The program is meant to help alleviate those conflicts & distractions in many different ways before they arise to a level where the agency has to intervene. Professional Standards being recognized by both NATCA and the Agency is huge and shows that everyone really does want to work together to make the workplace the best it can be. The agency nationwide has started utilizing the program more which is great and continuing to do that can only make it better for all of us.
Regionally, an issue that has sparked a few cases lately is the use of cell phones in the operation area. Remember “Turn Off and Tune In”! When you are in the operating area, your phone should be turned off, or better yet, left out of the operating altogether to avoid any temptation. There are a lot of people counting on us to keep them safe and there is no need for any added distractions.
If you have any questions or want more information on the Professional Standards program you can always check out the Professional Standards Committee page on the NATCA website. You can also reach out to the professional standards rep at your facility or feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safety of the NAS and an enjoyable workplace are two of the most important things to us as controllers and utilizing the professional standards program can help continue to make that happen!
Drug & Alcohol Committee
From Jim Basford, NATCA New England Drug & Alcohol Rep, A90
As COVID numbers retreat, and the associated restrictions begin to recede, I felt a refresher on off-duty alcohol use could be useful. So let’s go over a few scenarios.
First Scenario: Controller A has a 1200-2000 shift followed by a 0530 shift the following day. Controller B is a 1330-2130 and asks Controller A to grab a drink at the local watering hole after they get off duty. Can Controller A go?
No, according to 14 CFR 120.19 (d):
Pre-duty use. No covered employee shall perform air traffic control duties within 8 hours after using alcohol. No employer having actual knowledge that such an employee has used alcohol within 8 hours shall permit the employee to perform or continue to perform air traffic control duties.
Next Scenario: Controller C works at XYZ tower and there is an accident. Controller C is visibly and understandably upset. Management approves leave 30 minutes later for Controller C to go home before the end of their shift but does not perform after accident drug and alcohol testing. Since Controller C is on leave can they have a glass of wine when they get home to relieve the stress of the day?
Not until 8 hours after the accident:
14 CFR 120.19(e) Use following an accident. No covered employee who has actual knowledge of an accident involving an aircraft for which he or she performed a safety-sensitive function at or near the time of the accident shall use alcohol for 8 hours following the accident, unless he or she has been given a post-accident test under subpart F of this part or the employer has determined that the employee’s performance could not have contributed to the accident.
Last one: Controller D lives in Massachusetts which allows recreational cannabis. At a concert, a friend offers Controller D some. Controller D is off duty for a week on leave. Can they partake?
No despite it being legal at the state level they are prohibited:
14 CFR 120.17(b) No employer may knowingly use any individual to perform, nor may any individual perform for an employer, either directly or by contract, any air traffic control function while that individual has a prohibited drug, as defined in this part, in his or her system.
From Ben Nutter, BED Facility Representative
In this update’s FacRep Corner I would like to talk about Runway Safety from the National level down to the local level, along with the success this program had. Article 113 covers the Runway Safety Program, Section 2 of that article allows the union to designate one National Safety Representative to the Runway Safety Group and our current Rep is Bridget Singratanakul (DFW). The Runway Safety group aims to embody a safe flight — both at its start and conclusion. Runway Safety continues to be one of the FAA’s highest priorities and encompasses pilots, air traffic controllers, and airport vehicle drivers. Runway Safety offers guidance, resources, and expertise and welcomes questions, comments, and suggestions. The Runway Safety collects and manages data to determine trending runway safety data. They utilize the data to collaboratively with industry partners and labor to develop and deploy runway safety solutions.
Once annually each facility should conduct an RSAT (Runway Safety Action Team) Meeting. The Members that make up this team include Local Facility personnel (ATM or designee, FacRep or designee), Agency personnel (FSDO and Regional Runway Safety specialists), and most importantly, local stakeholders (Airport Operators, FBO operators, Flight School representatives, Local Commercial/Corporate pilots all the way down to the Private Pilot). This meeting is hosted by the local FAA facility, the ATM, and FacRep; they work through an agenda covering local issues and a review of past runway surface events.
In an attempt to mitigate surface events such as wrong runway alignments/landings, runway incursions, and excursions the entire team with have the opportunity to voice their opinion and concerns on such issues and develop local runway safety solutions. This meeting will produce Action Items and a plan/timeline for completion of these items. For example, every day in the NAS, there is approximately one wrong surface alignment/landing. Hanscom Field has one of the highest rates of wrong runway alignments in the NAS. These meetings have given us (BED ATCT) the perspective from the pilots, highlighted potential causes, and allowed us to devise an action plan to raise pilot awareness of this issue. One of the Action Items was to append a statement on the ATIS cautioning pilots an increased risk of aligning to the wrong runway. Feedback from the Team determined that in our first attempt, the ATIS statement was too long, repetitive, and buried at the end of the message. BED’s Local Safety council acted and met with FSDO and local pilots to address and find a solution to this issue. They were successful by changing the wording and placement of the cautionary statement prior to the runway in use information on the ATIS. Since then we have seen a reduction in wrong runway alignments and can contribute that to the RSAT meetings.
Back in September 2019, because of the high rate of wrong alignments at BED, a special Focus RSAT was conducted. This Nationally hosted meeting saw the production of a Hanscom From the Flight Deck video and it was released on YouTube (https://youtu.be/QB4KYBk2WUw) highlighting these issues. The FAA’s “From the Flight Deck” video series has over 300,000 views on YouTube since the campaign began kicked off in January of 2020. These videos are from the pilot’s perspective and a great opportunity to get in front of the general aviation community. There are currently 77 published videos. The Runway Safety Group is also developing pilot handbooks to accompany From the Flight Deck videos, these handbooks will capture controller insight and suggestions to provide clarity and better familiarity for pilots operating at their airports. BED is currently one of the first 11 facilities making these handbooks.
As Air Traffic Controllers safety needs to be in our blood and this is one proven way that makes our NAS the safest airspace in the world.