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Region X Commitment to Safety Award

Winners of the Region X Commitment to Safety Award:

2019: Michael Collins

Michael Collins retired in 2018 after having served the National Airspace System (NAS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and NATCA with a deep commitment to improving safety.

Collins was a founding member of both NATCA’s Aircraft Certification (AIR) bargaining unit and the Seattle Local Engineers Northwest Mountain (ENM) safety committee. He was on the NATCA negotiating team with National Safety Committee (NSC) Chairman Steve Hansen and ENM retired member Mike McRae for the AIR voluntary safety reporting process. He also served over five years as NATCA’s Region X AIR representative on the NSC. In that capacity, he participated in monthly NASA safety team meetings, and authored and coordinated submissions on NATCA comments to aircraft Airworthiness Directives (ADs), exemptions, and proposed rulemaking.

He also drafted and coordinated comments on numerous FAA regulatory proposals, pointing out safety issues that should be addressed on transport airplanes.

AIR member Tomaso DiPaolo from the Engineers Great Lakes Region, noted that Collins was one of two founding NATCA reps on the Safety Review Process (SRP) panel that reviewed and made safety determinations on all aircraft certification SRP reports. The SRP replaced the FAA’s Safety Issues Reporting System (SIRS) for NATCA-covered AIR employees

“Dozens of safety recommendations were created by SRP and forwarded to FAA top management for implementation,” DiPaolo said. “He was instrumental in helping to improve the air safety system in AIR these past few decades.”

AIR member Della Swartz from the Region X local in Anchorage, Alaska, said Collins “advocated tirelessly for safety within the FAA, even when that conflicted with his management.”

As the AIR representative on the NSC, Swartz said Collins brought safety concerns within AIR to the attention of NATCA leadership. “He wrote white papers to explain the issues, as well as taking the lead in writing comments to FAA rulemaking on behalf of NATCA to ensure our safety concerns were heard,” she said. “Mike never forgot that safety is the reason we are here and come to work every day. His unwavering passion for safety is truly inspirational.”

AIR Rep Scott Odle noted that while Collins was on the NSC, he worked on the initial development of some of the new safety training programs that AIR employees now enjoy. This includes the Aircraft Accident Investigation Safety (AAIS) Program, and employee fall protection and hearing conservation programs for AIR employees. 

Odle said Collins was also a member of the Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 21 Safety Management Systems Aviation Rulemaking Committee (SMSARC). His duties within the FAA were to ensure the safety of aircraft designs. He did that, Odle said, by ensuring that the final design was an FAA AIR Service-approved design that complied with the FARs.

Added Odle, commenting on Collins’s eight years as the lead Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Rep for NATCA AIR: “He worked extensively in service to his fellow co-workers on the Northwest Mountain Regional Office move and the building issues associated with the move. That included such safety-related items as water and indoor air quality at the new building.”

2018: Irene Porter and Ernest Gubry

Moe Wagner was with his University of Michigan basketball teammates on March 8, 2017, aboard an Ameristar Air Cargo MD-83 as it began its takeoff roll down Runway 23 Left at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Mich. The aircraft, headed to Washington Dulles for the Big Ten tournament, reached 173 knots. However, due to a mechanical failure, the aircraft did not pitch up and the pilots executed a rejected takeoff.

Wagner wrote about what happened next, in The Players Tribune:

“I just see everyone … this plane full of my Michigan family … with this look on their faces that I don’t even recognize. It’s almost, like, an entire emotion that I’ve never seen before. I immediately turn back around. I lean over to look out the window. We’re careening off the runway and into a field.

“Oh no, I think. Oh, God. Oh no. This is actually happening. We actually might die.”

The aircraft overran the end of Runway 23 Left and stopped on grass, 1,000 feet from the end of the runway. All 109 passengers and seven crew members evacuated the aircraft and only one person suffered minor injuries during evacuation, according to the NTSB.

That Wagner, now a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the other passengers survived this incident is a direct result of the work of NATCA-represented Airports Division (ARP) members Irene Porter and Ernest Gubry. Porter, who recently retired, and Gubry initiated, designed, planned, environmentally cleared, and funded the construction of a fully compliant runway safety area (RSA) at Willow Run. They oversaw and managed the project from initial concept through construction.

For their work, Porter and Gubry were presented with NATCA’s annual Region X Commitment to Safety Award.

One of the more high profile programs in the Airports Division is the RSA improvement program. Beginning in 2000, Airports Division identified deficient RSAs at commercial service airports, which were considered the highest priority locations. Employees improved 642 deficient RSAs by the congressionally-mandated 2015 deadline at a cost of over $3 billion. Every location with a RSA deficiency involves Airports Division engineers, planners, program managers, environmental protection specialists, financial specialists, compliance staff, and certification inspectors to identify and implement solutions.

“We truly have a team effort in addressing and solving safety-related issues at the airports we oversee across the nation,” said NATCA Airports Division rep Brad Davidson, who notes that ARP is a small group of dedicated aviation safety professionals and has approximately 350 bargaining unit employees spread across the country. “We often hear about the flawed logic that, ‘we have never had an incident or crash here so why do we need to improve our RSAs to meet standards?’

“Well the University of Michigan men’s basketball team can tell you why – because the unexpected can happen at any time. The added margin of safety with the construction of fully compliant RSAs at Willow Run contributed to saving the lives of 109 passengers and seven crew members.”

2017: Steve Rosenfeld

In 2011, a small airplane directorate invited Steve Rosenfeld to take part in pre-decisional involvement on the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 23 reorganization of the aviation rule-making committee. Rosenfeld advised the group on behalf of NATCA because of his extensive expertise and knowledge in airworthiness regulations and procedures.

For this effort, he developed official engineering safety input, questions and comments for the main body of the rule-making committee, and organized and submitted all other comments generated from NATCA Air Certification bargaining unit employees.

His efforts improved safety for general aviation (GA) aircraft by initiating a move from prescriptive to performance-based regulations, and developing an internationally recognized and standardized means of compliance. Through the rule-making decisions on these efforts, there were discussions in the industry for the next five years. Rosenfeld led efforts to develop an official NATCA response to the FAA rule-making committee by working with the National Safety Committee. He worked with NATCA to provide comments to the concurrent European rule-making effort. His efforts served as part of a broader push to harmonize the FAA with procedures abroad in certification regulation — a monumental undertaking worthy of praise.

“We thank Steve for his long-term dedication to aviation safety and for being a strong NATCA leader through these various collaborative efforts,” said Region X Regional Vice President Mike MacDonald.

The new performance-based Part 23 changes became effective Aug. 30, 2017, for use by GA industry. Rosenfeld continues to demonstrate his dedication to the safety of the NAS as NATCA lead on the American Society for Testing and Materials, the GA Aircraft Standards Committee, and on other industry civil airworthiness authorities in the FAA. Rosenfeld also serves as the NATCA Rep for the Small Airplane Directorate Part 23 training development effort to bring real-time training to NATCA Certification Safety Engineers, and helping bridge the gap between old and new certification philosophies.