As Paul said in his last post on the Follies, it’s been awhile. The Main Bang and Potomac Current and Undertow went offline, Jurassic Bark’s been silent, WWVB hasn’t touched ATC issues in quite some time, Don Brown is focusing more on his photography and Praxis hasn’t had a lot to say recently. What’s really going on?
For those in the Agency that are thinking “Controllers got a contract, money shut them up,” think again. I can’t speak for everyone else, but the past few years were exhausting for me and currently I’ve been watching and waiting. Watching Administrator Babbitt, giving him a chance to show us more than money…good faith bargaining, honest communications, some cleaning house that desperately needs done, living up to and by agreements. Waiting to see how some of this plays out; not just ERAM, ADS-B, NextGen or grievance resolutions, but altogether as a whole.
It’s interesting, this watching and waiting thing, on a number of levels. Don’s watching through his camera lens and waiting for another beautiful nature picture to cross his path. He’s looking at the world a little differently these days. (Note to Don – a few more people shots would be nice, too!). There are times, then, that patiently waiting has its rewards.
But is all well in the land of ATC? No. For anyone who hasn’t read Praxis Foundation’s series, you need to. If you have read it, try reading it again; you might find something new.
I know from the terminal side of the ATC equation, we’ve been getting frustrated with the variety of rules that are supposedly supposed to make things safer on the runways and taxiways, but actually do the opposite. Detailed taxi instructions are now mandated regardless of the situation…wasting time, energy and creating frequency congestion as well as confusion. Taxi into position and hold (TIPH) rules have become so cumbersome and complex that many of the smaller facilities no longer utilize TIPH, slowing traffic down and making it more difficult and dangerous when there is any volume of traffic. So now we’re having trainees check out NEVER having used TIPH and those trainees will be learning how to do TIPH at larger facilities as they move up.
And now we have to issue a runway crossing for EVERY runway to be crossed – whether it’s active or not, closed or not. Which also means we have to issue and receive readbacks on hold short instructions, whether they’re needed or not. More frequency congestion and confusion are imminent. The Notice says waivers may be issued for facilities that have runways separated by less than 1,000 feet. Wanna bet that’ll change when delays start cropping up so that it’ll end up including waivers for the top 35 OEP airports? Line up and wait – nope, I’m not even going there right now.
So what’s really going on? I’ve heard controllers say that the Agency’s dumbing down the system to compensate for the fact that they aren’t screening new hires properly and are overloading the system with new hires and creating an ever-increasing dangerous imbalance of experience. I’ve heard it said that the Agency no longer wants controllers to think. I’ve heard lots of things, but are any of them right?
Sometimes watching and waiting gives you time to look at things in a new way, through a different lens, so to speak. More to come….