In a Wall Street Journal article this morning Andy Pasztor explores a report that FAA officials have investigated more than 6 close calls over the last 2 months, and apparently have failed to report them to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt within the requisite 24 hours. In some cases it took days for the reports to reach Administrator Babbitt. In an interview Mr. Babbitt said "We began to see more events that I was comfortable seeing," adding he had to go back and remind people that I don't want to be the last to know in these cases."
More interesting was the fact that it appears that these incidents have been the result of controller mistakes, and that senior FAA officials were upset enough to alert controllers throughout the U.S. Those of us who have been around long enough remember when President Regan fired all of the air traffic controllers back in the 80s. Apparently there continues to be labor-managment problems between the FAAs 15,000 controllers and FAA leadership. Adding to the problem is the FAAs move to more automated, satellite-based navigation which will eliminate many controller jobs ultimately, and change the job descriptions of those remaining. Following years of bitter contract and work rule disagreements Babbitt and his team are trying to establish a better relationship with the controller's union combined with non-punitive voluntary reporting when incidents do occur. The last thing any of us want are for incidents to turn into accidents. With this in mind the FAA has been trying to implement a self-reporting system similar to the ones used by airlines to identify safety issues and correct them before an accident occurs. But the rancor between the union and the FAA remains a problem, and the lack of trust between controllers and the FAA management remains as an issue. In an effort to improve the situation the FAA has implemented an advisory group consisting of FAA officials, union representatives and some academics which held its first meeting last Tuesday. Nearly 1 in 4 controllers nationwide are still going through training to be fully approved to work at his or her position. Paul Rinaldi, president of the controller's union said such employee turmoil may be partly to blame for the spate of mistakes. He also claimed recurrent training for veteran controllers was substandard and "it would be a really good idea" to beef it up. Whatever the problem it needs resolution, and quickly. The safety of all of us who fly is at stake, and we don't need any more airline accidents involving large numbers of passengers. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect. — Captain A. G. Lamplugh, British Aviation Insurance Group ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!