This is progress!

Hubby and I have spoken with our children about ways to handle themselves when they start driving and are unexpectedly pulled over by police. With our daughter’s autism, this is a big safety concern for us. I have those nice bright, yellow cards for her to use in the future, but will she remember to pull one out if she begins to melt down? Will a meltdown cause the police to erroneously believe she is a danger to them?

Michigan has passed a law that people with autism and hearing disabilities can sign up for a “communication impediment” designation when they receive their licenses and register their vehicles. It won’t be obvious to the general public, but law enforcement will have that information available to them when they run licenses or license plates.

We need this to be a nationwide program, along with training for law enforcement personnel. Good job leading the way, Michigan!

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Human Factors Error with COVID-19

Cases of COVID-19 nationwide are on the rise. Unfortunately, a number of people have made this a political issue or feel there is some weird conspiracy going on. It is still a serious public health issue. Some people have just gotten tired of being home. But another issue, at least in my state of Pennsylvania, is that they made one large human factors error in designating our re-opening phases.

Our re-opening phases are Red, Yellow and Green. Many of our counties are now in the Green Phase. I am not heading out much at all, but when I do, I see fewer people wearing masks indoors (or wearing them improperly) and/or not adhering to social distancing guidelines. On social media, I see pictures of friends and family taking vacations to crowded areas and sitting close together with other friends without masks. And I wonder why they feel so safe, especially when my family doesn’t. And neither my husband nor I are what anyone would consider natural worrywarts or over-reactors.

Then I find out that our school district’s preliminary reopening plan calls for all students to go back in the fall full-time for in-person instruction. With that plan, there will be no social distancing at all on the buses on in the classrooms – there are just too many children. And as we all know, schools are petri dishes to begin with. But right now, that is their plan if the county is still in the Green Phase. Yet the state guidelines for Green are still to conduct social distancing.

A report by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Laboratory (REL), commissioned by the state was released two days ago recommends that until there is a vaccine, herd immunity or a good anti-viral treatment, the safest options (beyond everyone staying home) are students attending in person no more than 4 days in a two week period, with the rest of the time as online learning.

When we think of red, yellow, green, it is natural for people to think “Green means go.” I believe many people are unconsciously associating the green as everything is back to normal and we don’t need to be concerned any longer. In my opinion, our phases should have been: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green…and we should be in the Yellow Phase now. That Yellow Phase should have the same guidelines we currently have for green, but yellow means caution for the vast majority of us. Maybe then more people would attempt to be more careful than they are now.

In the meantime, I will have to see if our school district changes their plans. No one in our family is comfortable with in-person full-time school attendance yet. I really, really don’t want to go to full-time cyber learning in the fall, but we may feel we have no choice.

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Trump’s numbers are scary

I have no doubt most of you have already heard about Trump’s Tulsa Rally yesterday and how the campaign’s actual attendance was significantly lower than the actual attendance.

There are differing points of view on the teenage prank of registering for tickets.  Some seem to think that the teenagers are irresponsible and a scourge on our society.  Others are happy to see the teens protest in a manner that suits them (and doesn’t destroy property).  Some adults are concerned that it just gives the Trump campaign an inflated talking point – we had over 1 million people register for the rally and somehow the prank took away seats that could have gone to legitimate attendees.

I admit I’m straddling the fence a little on this, but still have one foot firmly on the teen side of the debate. From photos showing the amount of empty seats available (13,000) to those who did want to attend the rally, I doubt the prank/protest hurt the ability to be there for anyone who actually wanted to go.  And the thought that teenagers mobilized so quickly and intelligently to register their displeasure gives me hope for the country’s future.

And the less than mature part of myself can’t help but tee-hee over the fact that manipulating social media in such a fashion is just desserts for Trump and his followers. Trump’s campaign has shown over and over again they want to manipulate data and emotions, not spread facts and have concrete, measurable plans in place.

I think it is far more likely that Trump’s inconsistent and less than empathetic handling of the COVID-19 crisis and those numbers, which Trump has done his bumbling best to obfuscate, have led where they should have…to people finally waking up to the fact that he is highly unsuited to be a leader.  I don’t know about you, but I am tired of our country being run as if it’s a reality TV show with a diva looking for ratings by any means.

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Long Time Readers – Help!

For those of you who have been with me since the beginning and read my work on the FAA Follies, I could use your assistance. Unfortunately, all my backup drives do not have copies of my three Confessions of a Union Buster posts in May, 2008. I found a number of my other FAA Follies posts, but not those three.

I must have written them with the blog software that Paul was using at the time. It seems neither he nor I kept digital or print copies before he took the site down.

If you have copies of any/all of those posts in any format, could you let me know? I would really like to repost them here so they are available to anyone who may be interested.

You can post in the comments or you can go here and fill out the contact form here with a private message. Either way, I will get back to you to arrange to get the copies.

Thanks!

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I Must Have Been Psychic

Over three and a half years ago I wrote this post about the 2016 Presidential Election.

I originally wrote:

Embarrassed that the person who will be representing our nation and assuming the office of Commander-in-Chief is so volatile and seems to lack the simple ability to treat everyone with respect regardless of their background, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or any other “flavor of the day” that gets a reaction.

I feel like I have been watching an extremely bad reality television show for years now with no way to turn off or change the damn channel. I can’t even bring myself to search for the links to prove my comment correct.  Not because I was wrong, but because there are so many examples that I can not face that much deliberate disregard for human decency in one sitting.

I also wrote:

Ashamed that the world has a front-row seat to all of this and is at worst, judging us harshly for it – at best, laughing at us.

The most recent example of this was during Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pause during a press conference about the protests and riots. The leader of our country’s closest neighbor appeared conflicted…wanting to support the citizens of our country, but without insulting our country’s supposed leader.  It was akin to watching a parent in a bitter, nasty divorce trying to find some way to tell the truth to his child without badmouthing the other parent.

And then I said:

Afraid that our president-elect will want to prove who is swinging a bigger stick and make rash, undoable, long-lasting disastrous decisions. Afraid that greed unchecked will result in a far-too-privatized government and oversight decisions made based on money – not public safety (think FDA, EPA, and, yes, FAA, etc.). Afraid that Social Security and Medicare won’t be there for our elderly and those who need it. Afraid that our country and our form of government will end up self-destructing as it moves towards an isolationist, elitist, racist, exclusionist mindset. Afraid that the upcoming Supreme Court appointments will send our country back into the dark ages.

Instead of draining the swamp, our current President has been filling it with the worst swamp creatures imaginable.  It’s as if he can not help but put the least qualified and most ethically-challenged people in place in his administration.  Which, if you consider that he appears to require sycophants around him to bolster his overly large, under-deserved ego, makes sense.

From his judicial appointments on district or appellate courts to the Supreme Court, to the Secretaries of Education, Labor, Commerce and more, Trump has proven that he has no true interest in the education, livelihood or health of the working class American people…over and over again.  He is more concerned about his approval rating and photo ops for the upcoming election than he is about our country’s needs.

And I also said:

We’ll keep hoping they won’t have to live the 1960’s here, but if we do, we’ll show them how to triumph over it again – our country did it once, we can do it again. 

Now is the time for people of good conscience to speak up louder than they have been.  Robert B. Neller, Mark Esper, Kaleth O. Wright, and David L. Goldfein are just a few of the military people who have had eloquent, heartfelt words to say.  And others, such as James Mattis and reporters are giving their views on what they see happening in our country as a whole. I have read Facebook and Twitter posts of ordinary people doing little things, like asking and listening.  Just as men do not fully understand women’s concerns and feelings about walking alone at night and other considerations for personal safety, Caucasian people do not fully understand black people’s concerns and feelings for their own personal safety.  Character and personal integrity matter far more than color, sex, gender, occupation, political affiliation or any other label.

The little things add up. The more each of us tries to understand one another individually, the closer we move collectively towards true respect for one another as human beings.

 

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Polarization

I originally posted this on my Facebook page on May 31, 2020…

Profound Sadness.

Grief.

Anger.

Confusion.

Questions. So many damn questions.

The polarization of our country is becoming out of control. Snap judgments are becoming the norm.

On the same weekend we launched SpaceX, we also reached over 100,000 dead in the United States from COVID-19, with protests in over 75 cities and rioting and looting.

Our issues are not black and white. What has happened to critical thinking in our country? What has happened to reasoned discourse to solve problems? What has happened to people consistently reaching for their better behaviors and attitudes?

How did wearing masks to protect others from an unchecked virus become a political issue? How did wanting clear metrics on how to reopen our stores, beaches and public venues become an us vs. them issue?

George Floyd should not have died the way he did. Regardless of race, regardless of sex, regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of belief system, regardless of any category you can think of, no human should have died the way he did.

Our problems are more than race and I do not doubt that we will eventually discover whether or not race played a primary role in Mr. Floyd’s death. The problem extends beyond a single police officer; there were three others present that did not stop it. Is there more going on? Are there training issues within some police departments that dehumanize suspects? Is there lack of support for law enforcement personnel who may be desensitized to those they consider suspects that contribute to the dehumanization of those they arrest? Are law enforcement personnel working in an environment where they are penalized if they do not back another officer, right or wrong, or are they taught and encouraged to speak up for what is right? Are there other issues involved that we have not yet considered because we’re racing to judgment?

There are peaceful protests that are being hijacked by white supremacists, anarchists, second amendment rights extremists and/or those who would like to see our country under martial law. The original narrative is being lost under the snap judgments that are taking place against the peaceful protesters. How much of the looting is occurring because of a true criminal element looking for opportunity and how much is occurring from those that are desperate because of the economic ramifications of COVID-19?

We’re now hearing about police violence within the protests. How much of that is other issues I’ve mentioned and how much of that is fear? Fear of being outnumbered, fear of the potential loss of control of the situation with even more people getting hurt? There is fear on all sides that we need to recognize, acknowledge and address.

Mob mentality is just an extreme form of peer pressure. Engage and enrage the mob and they’ll do your bidding, whether in person or virtually. We need to be smarter than that.

We’re also hearing of city leaders and law enforcement personnel welcoming peaceful protests and joining them as part of their communities. Kudos to those who have been blurring those polarized lines.

Our systemic issues in our country are more than race, religion or political affiliation. Our true enemy is polarization. We all have our own belief systems, our own biases, our own priorities. For myself, had the victim in Minneapolis been a serial killer, rapist or pedophile, regardless of race, I acknowledge it would be much more difficult for me to feel much sympathy for him/her. But Mr. Floyd wasn’t any of those things.

We don’t need leaders who are the smartest people on earth. We need leaders who surround themselves with true experts and are willing to hear all the facts and opinions before deciding on courses of action. We need leaders who exude honest empathy for all humankind. We need elections where the difficulty lies in agonizing who to vote for because the ideas and platforms of all resonate deeply within us, not elections where we vote for “anyone but.” We need to start taking the time to think of all the angles of the best and worst situations in our society to truly understand the issues before we make our decisions and/or form our opinions. We need to recognize that most situations include more than two sides or a single cause. To see true reform, we need to see all the root causes, not just those that make us feel good about ourselves or superior or fit our confirmation biases.

We need to use our intellect wisely and calmly, pool our resources and lead with love. If you currently think there are only two sides to any issue, you need to think again. As humans we are much more complex than that, and our issues are much more complex as well.

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Personal COVID-19 Thoughts

I originally posted this on my Facebook page on March 27, 2020…

As a retired air traffic controller, I’m intrinsically wired to look at all the moving/non-moving parts of situations, extrapolate patterns, determine what changing one or more parts will do to the overall pattern before making a determination on which part(s) need to change for the safest, most efficient outcome and implementing those changes quickly. So it isn’t surprising to me to see so many of my former colleagues posting links to good reliable resources, articles and thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic. They are doing the same thing I am, because they are wired the same. We’re used to operating in the background, but just as importantly, we’re used to acting in the interests of public safety.

So it’s frustrating to not be able to do more than educate ourselves, stay at home and take every reasonable precaution, when we know that more changes need to be made now for the best outcomes. (I won’t get into what should have already occurred.) My asthma and my husband’s age put us both in the high risk category, so what volunteering I might normally do to feel like I am at least doing something to contribute, I can’t, in good conscience, do. We have teenage twins, one with special needs, and we have to seriously consider the potential consequences to them in our decision-making about our personal actions during this crisis.

I recently posted a comment to someone’s timeline: “People can recover from economic turmoil; death is permanent.” That should be more than enough to tell you where my priorities are: we need to protect the most amount of people – all humans – regardless of age, income level, or any other category/sub-category you can think of.

I’m not writing this to post an action plan for the country.

Normally, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying, but when I’m concerned or working through something emotionally, I talk to those I trust most and that is usually enough. But now my worries are far greater than they have been in a very long time and those conversations aren’t quite cutting it for me. So, I am writing this for myself, because I know myself well; this is the best, healthiest way for me to reduce those worries to a level where sleep comes a little quicker at night. For my family and friends reading this, I’m not depressed or anything like that, so please don’t go blowing up my phone and email all at once! LOL!

Some background on me, if you don’t know:

I’ve never been a big fan of huge crowds; no light-up or ball-dropping nights for me. Even parades seem like too much, but 4th of July fireworks have always been important to attend. I enjoy socializing and rarely say no to a party, but haven’t felt a need to actively seek out or create regular, multiple opportunities in many, many years. I’m a hugger and a talker. Many people would classify me as an extrovert, but my quiet time is also very important to me. Most of the things I enjoy doing for myself are fairly solitary activities.

Last week was my 4-year retirement anniversary, so I haven’t been spending 40 or more hours a week with coworkers for quite some time. And at the beginning of this school year when the kids changed schools, there was no PTA for me to spend my time on supporting the kids in our district, so my face-to-face socialization with other people went down even further. Given all that, when this all started I didn’t think social distancing was going to affect me all that much.

I’ve come to realize that I do truly miss the “Good morning,” “Stay warm,” “It’s a good day for ducks with all this rain,” “Have a nice day,” or other similar seemingly small, innocuous moments getting my morning breakfast sandwich or checking out with a cashier at a store. But I can deal with missing those moments for as long as it takes to come out on the other side of this pandemic with as many people as possible still alive. I’m fortunate; I don’t live alone and those I do live with are among the people who mean the most to my heart.

The worries that keep the “hamster on the wheel” in my head churning more than I like:

I am absolutely terrified that one of my children might get seriously ill from COVID-19, require hospitalization and I wouldn’t be allowed to be with them during what would be the scariest times of their lives and/or death. I worry that that scenario might break me.

I worry that my husband or other person I love or care about might have to be alone during a similar situation or alone at the time of death, if he/she couldn’t recover. If that recovery didn’t happen because of the lack of medical resources, I’m not sure how I would recover from my grief/anger.

I worry that I can’t do more to reduce our children’s concerns about getting ill with COVID-19 and transmitting it to us, their parents. I worry that the recent reduction in hugs in our household isn’t normal teenage “it’s weird hugging Mom” development, but fear.

I worry for my extended family and friends who are in the medical profession, law enforcement, emergency services (fire/EMS, etc.), working at grocery stores, trucking or whatever profession that supports the greater good at this time. I worry for all the people that I don’t know in those professions. I worry that we’re not doing nearly enough to keep them as safe as possible.

I worry that if someone I care about dies, I won’t be going to their memorial service (if there is one). I worry less about showing respect, but more about not being willing to be physically present to offer hugs, shoulders and physical emotional support for those that need it. I worry about what it might do to my own self-esteem to have to make the decision not to be there.

I worry that I can’t help out financially as much as I would like because my husband isn’t working as his profession is not considered life-sustaining or essential and we don’t know how long we will be without his income.

I worry that the cough I currently have from seasonal allergies is creating stress for my family and exacerbating their own concerns for me. I don’t want to take anything for my allergies because I worry about masking any symptoms from COVID-19 if I were to contract it and I wouldn’t know to isolate myself early enough to have the best chance to protect my family.

I abhor feeling helpless and unable to meaningfully contribute. I am used to taking action and there is no action I can realistically and safely take beyond what I am currently doing.

My intent with this post was not to depress or create additional anxiety for anyone. I needed the catharsis of getting it out; it was just too enormous for my closest circle.

Now that I’ve named the worst of it, I can own it. You see, for me, my owning it means it no longer owns me.

I can begin focusing again on the positives. My family and friends are currently healthy and safe. I see the hope and energy of so many I care about doing what they can to make it easier on one another even from a “social distance.” I see more people (and companies) doing what they can, where they can, not only for their communities or country, but for individual workers (and I am keeping a list of those companies who will never see another dime of my money). I see the strong sense of community and nation in so many diverse people and it gives me hope that collectively we will learn something meaningful from all of this.

Thanks for reading… Stay safe and smart, everyone.

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Embarrassed, Ashamed and Afraid

When I found out the presidential election results this morning, I have to admit it was the first time in my life that I was embarrassed, ashamed and afraid to be an American citizen.  Embarrassed that our country has gotten so polarized politically that someone without the qualifications, a reasonable plan for the future and has insulted most people, here and abroad, not only got on the ballot, but actually won the election.  Embarrassed that the person who will be representing our nation and assuming the office of Commander-in-Chief is so volatile and seems to lack the simple ability to treat everyone with respect regardless of their background, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or any other “flavor of the day” that gets a reaction.

Ashamed of my fellow citizens that hate and fear trumped reason and love.  Ashamed that the far right GOP obstructionism of the last eight years because our President happened to be black somehow translated into anything Democratic must be bad.  Ashamed that our educational system has been so underfunded for so many years that sound, reasoned thought processes fell victim to paranoia and false, empty promises.  Ashamed that the world has a front-row seat to all of this and is at worst, judging us harshly for it – at best, laughing at us.

Afraid that our president-elect will want to prove who is swinging a bigger stick and make rash, undoable, long-lasting disastrous decisions.  Afraid that greed unchecked will result in a far-too-privatized government and oversight decisions made based on money – not public safety (think FDA, EPA, and, yes, FAA, etc.).  Afraid that Social Security and Medicare won’t be there for our elderly and those who need it.  Afraid that our country and our form of government will end up self-destructing as it moves towards an isolationist, elitist, racist, exclusionist mindset.  Afraid that the upcoming Supreme Court appointments will send our country back into the dark ages.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not and probably never will be a Hillary Clinton fan.  However, given the choice between someone with a plan that includes progress towards clean energy (addressing climate change and leaving a habitable planet for our descendants), increases in budgets for education and the like and at a minimum, the status quo for the rights of all individuals and not reducing them, a much better record of recognizing and encouraging labor unions or someone who wants to build walls to solve “problems” and treat some of our citizens as less than they deserve as citizens, the choice to me was clear.  I can’t tell you how many times during this election season I was reminded of a quote from the movie “The American President” – “…is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only : Making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”

The Democratic party made a huge mistake nominating Hillary Clinton – partly because of her history, but also because of her sex.  Yes, as a woman, I just said that.  Knowing how the GOP worked so hard to obstruct President Obama at every turn and how fed up the American people were becoming with the perceived lack of progress, a female Democratic nominee was just too much change, too fast for many this close to a Democratic black President’s term.  In my opinion, a female Republican nominee would have had a much better chance of putting a woman in the White House at this time.  I hope that GOP obstructionism of the recent past will come into play to help mitigate the most devastating policies that may come out of the Oval Office after January 20, 2017.

I haven’t written on this blog for years.  I retired and thought that it was up to the younger generation to carry the torch since they were still on the boards.  So, truth is, I didn’t have much to say that I believed to be of interest to anyone outside my immediate circle.  But seeing the results this morning, I found I had to say something because I can’t say some of this at home.

Why is that, you ask?  I have middle-school children, one of whom is a very intelligent, high-functioning autistic and who is terrified we are now going to war and that because she is different and female, it will now be okay to treat her as less than she is.   Our children have seen the political ads from both sides, various YouTube videos and now, my husband and I have the task of trying to allay those fears, some of which are legitimate given what they’ve seen and heard from sources generated from outside our home.  We are now in the unenviable position of having to explain that though they’ve been taught since birth, at home and at school, that diversity is a good thing, being different and unique is a wonderful thing, treating others as you wish to be treated is one of the most important lessons they must learn, love of country is to be encouraged and respected and bullying is a bad thing that now someone that they’ve already seen act and speak contrary to all those teachings is slated to be our nation’s leader.

As parents, we are not in this position alone, I know.  No parent wants their child to feel fear.  Van Jones said it very well last night on CNN. And if you’re familiar with autism at all, you know that shades of gray in a situation, especially an abstract one, are extremely difficult for an autistic person to grasp.

I read that the Canadian immigration website went down last night due to the high volume of activity.  I admit that I looked briefly at Cape Breton – they’re looking for people to move there.  With my ATC experience, Australia would work, too.  A part of me thinks it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

However, the stronger, more idealistic part of me believes that it would be the wrong thing to teach our children.   We’ll take the hard road for awhile, attempting to teach our kids the difference between respecting the office and respecting the person.  We’ll try to show our children how things can be scary and tough, but together we can weather the storm and find ways to improve the situation.  We’ll keep teaching our children that love and respect and surrounding yourself and working with people who believe the same will ultimately win over hate and fear.  We’ll keep hoping they won’t have to live the 1960’s here, but if we do, we’ll show them how to triumph over it again – our country did it once, we can do it again.  We’ll work hard to help them understand that the pendulum swings, sometimes too hard, but it always swings back – you just have to work and wait for it.

And we’ll also teach them to give the president-elect a chance to prove he can step up to the plate and provide a good example for the American people, including its children, to live up to.  We’ll teach them to have hope, even when it seems hopeless.   I know what I believe is in the future for this country and my most fervent, sincerest hope is that president-elect Trump proves me wrong.

 

 

 

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Can I Retire Yet?

I’m sure it’s obvious to my few, but faithful, readers, that I have not been able to get to my keyboard in quite some time.  I probably should take a page from Don Brown‘s book and retire so I can find some time to do more writing.   Unfortunately, despite my having over 20 years ATC, I’m still not eligible yet, so it’s going to be awhile yet.

I’ve written in the past about “dumbing down” air traffic control.  In fact, in my last post I stated:

There are times that I seriously wonder how insulted I should get at the lack of thought that goes into these “thoughts” of improvements.  There is only so much you can dumb down the job.  I think we’re there, people, and it’s not a pretty sight up ahead.

Did you hear about the latest incident at DCA where there was what appears to be a breakdown in communication between tower and TRACON during a runway change?  First, let me make it clear that I know no more about what actually happened than what has been in the press.  Second, I’m not familiar enough with their operation to know whether or not their own internal Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) were followed, although I would guess not.  Third, I do know that I received phone calls on my off-duty hours from fellow controllers telling me about the “new” procedures nationwide even though I’m not the NATCA representative or a member of management.

As I mentioned earlier, I have over 20 years ATC experience and I have safely run countless opposite direction operations in accordance with Chapter 3 of the 7110.65, at both smaller and larger facilities.  In that time, I have also seen many kneejerk reactions to incidents by the Agency – this Notice is another one.

Honestly, I’m not sure where to start.  So many points to make and I would not be surprised if I miss any.  Maybe I should just run through the Notice point by point…

The front line manager (FLM)/controller-in-charge (CIC) in the initiating facility is responsible for making all verbal coordination required to accomplish an opposite direction departure or arrival.

On paper, sounds good.  However, usually the people most likely to have a real clue as to what is going on and whether or not an opposite direction operation is advisable are the ones working the traffic.  If we must have something, then it should be the FLM/CIC should be the ones coordinating the details of last in/first out of runway changes.

All coordination must be on a recorded line and must state “opposite direction.”

Very good, in my opinion, and most controllers do this regardless of what the regulations say.  However, this would have done absolutely nothing to aid the DCA incident in not occurring as, from what I read, neither the tower, nor the TRACON, believed they were running an opposite direction.

All coordination must include call-sign, aircraft type, and arrival or departure runway.

Overly restrictive – aircraft type really isn’t necessary the vast majority of the time – and does not account for when only one runway is in use or if a controller has sent the other a flight strip via a drop tube.

The provisions of FAA Order JO 7110.65, Paragraph 7-2-1, Visual Separation, cannot be applied when conducting opposite direction operations.

Really???  Many smaller facilities use this paragraph when running pattern operations.  One more tool from the toolbox gone.  Tell you what, why don’t we just get rid of visual separation altogether?  Can’t see that happening, though, as it would slow down operations at the “big” facilities for arrivals. [That was sarcasm, in case you missed it.]

Opposite Direction Departures.
1. The tower must verbally request all opposite direction departures with the terminal radar approach control (TRACON)/en route facility and state aircraft call sign and type.
2. The TRACON/en route facility must suspend all arrivals until the tower verbally advises opposite direction departure is airborne.
3. The departing aircraft must be airborne and turned to avoid all conflicts prior to an arrival reaching a 10-mile final.

Again, aircraft type is unnecessary – geez, most of the time in smaller facilities, call sign is also unnecessary.  At best, you only need one or the other and it really should be up to the controller to decide what is important to relay based on normal local operations.

10-miles is excessive, even with jets.  Do I really need 10 miles between a Cessna and a Cherokee?

“Verbally advises” wastes time if you have radar coverage to the ground.

Suspending all operations?  Guess it’s time to get rid of opposite direction with visual separation.  Oh, wait, some of the larger facilities use opposite direction operations on their midshifts for noise abatement.

Opposite Direction Arrivals.
1. The TRACON/en route facility must verbally request all opposite arrivals with the tower and state aircraft call sign and type.
2. The tower must stop all departures on the opposite direction runway until the opposite direction arrival has landed.
3. Any departing aircraft must be airborne and turned to avoid all conflicts prior to the opposite direction arrival reaching a 10-mile final.
4. The tower may not resume normal operations on the opposite direction runway until the aircraft has landed.

See above.

David Grizzle, Chief Operating Officer, Air Traffic Organization, in his memo dated yesterday, wrote:

The only exception to this order is an emergency situation or an FAA flight inspection.

I’m betting Mr. Grizzle would not consider thunderstorm activity as an emergency situation.  There are times when there is only one way in or out to an airport due to weather…and 10 miles between opposite direction operations would allow the “hole” time to close.  And if this is the new rule, then as far as I’m concerned, it should apply to FAA flight inspections as well.

I have some questions that I bet I won’t be hearing the answers to.  In the recent “incidents”, what was the experience level of the controllers as well as the supervisors?  What was the staffing like?  Was there training occurring?  What was the trainee/CPC ratio at the respective facilities?

We just passed the 31st anniversary of the PATCO strike and the firing of over 11,000 controllers.  We’re still in the midst of a staffing crisis that the FAA created themselves with the White Book years and also with their failure to listen to NATCA and hire new people in advance of the predictable and foreseeable retirement wave.  What do the past strike and the current staffing crisis have in common?  A learning curve for new controllers without the benefit of a fully-staffed, well-rested, seasoned workforce to keep them out of trouble.

The difference between then and now?  The internet.  Things like FlightAware, LiveATC.net, YouTube, news websites, and blogs .  The learning curve isn’t necessarily any greater today than it was back then; it’s just more visible to the public now.  So we have things like detailed taxi instructions, greatly reduced usage of Taxi Into Position and Hold (or Line Up and Wait), and no more opposite direction operations.  Most of which actually reduces safety and efficiency, but to the Monday morning quarterbacks, the Agency looks like they’re doing something, anything, to improve safety.  In the meantime, controllers will be doing what they always do for the users – as much as they can within the restrictions to provide what service(s) they’re allowed.

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It’s the (Lack of) Thought That Counts

Sorry I haven’t written lately; I, unfortunately, have to say that more often than I like.  There’s been something, though, that’s been gnawing at me for awhile now and I would finally like to get it out and into the blogosphere.

The FAA, in its infinite wisdom, a few months ago gave us these 2-sided “reminder cards.”  If I uploaded correctly, you should be able to click on either picture to see a larger view.

At first glance, to the uninitiated, uninformed or just plain clueless, these cards might seem like a good idea – color reminders of what it is we do each day.  Let us take a closer look.

I’m not sure where to start with all this.  Let’s go with the easy.  The Agency has been issuing us new identification cards for over a year now, in the hopes of eventually moving things over to a more centralized ID system.  These cards are meant to fit in card holders similar to these which only hold one card and are a bit bulky.  So many of us who don’t yet need to use the badge holders, don’t.  If you look closely at the Safety Alert card, you’ll notice that it is meant to slip over a lanyard.  The two cards aren’t quite compatible.  Right hand, left hand, neither working/talking with each other; it’s a bit scary at how often that happens the higher you go in the hierarchy in the FAA.  Especially when you consider at the lower levels (i.e. operational floor), how critical it is for what we do daily to know what the “other” hand is doing.

Second, the cards are red with black and yellow printing.  Not the most conducive for reading in a dark radar room.  If you’ve still got yours and haven’t pitched it in the circular file like many, try it; you won’t like it.

Third, if you need a reminder hanging around your neck that our first priority is the separation of aircraft and the issuance of safety alerts, you should be looking for a job elsewhere.  Don’t waste our time.

Fourth, someone in the FAA thought it was necessary to define priority, but highlighted “first.”  Not very intuitive, methinks.

Fifth, it really is not a bad idea to have a reminder (cheat sheet, as we call them) of some of the safety alert phraseology around.  However, to have it on a card that you can’t read in the dark is not very smart.  You want your cheat sheets in a position that maximizes your scan…i.e. next to your scope, not hanging around your neck requiring additional heads-down time.  If a controller is in a position where they need the phraseology, the LAST thing you want is for s/he to be looking down at their chest instead of the scope.

So, at first glance, it looks like the Agency was attempting to do something proactive, semi-innovative or something like that to highlight the importance of what we do.  However, if it was ever someone who was operational who came up with the idea, they obviously haven’t been in the operation for quite some time.

There are times that I seriously wonder how insulted I should get at the lack of thought that goes into these “thoughts” of improvements.  There is only so much you can dumb down the job.  I think we’re there, people, and it’s not a pretty sight up ahead.

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