Former FAA COO: Transforming ATC Will Put “Sharper Focus” on Safety

Published By#ModernSkies

An op-ed from former FAA Chief Operating Officer David Grizzle states that the FAA has missed its hiring goals for the last five years and is facing a situation where 3,000 air traffic controllers are expected to retire in the upcoming years. At Miami International, the situation looks like this:

“The traffic at the Miami International Airport requires 91 certified air traffic controllers, but it has just 58; the situation at the regional control center, which oversees airspace between Orlando and Puerto Rico, is almost as bad, filling just 205 of the required 267 slots. Staffing shortages and longer shifts directly contribute to fatigue, which is dangerous.”

In a separate piece by executives from four of the largest airlines, it’s noted that the National Air Traffic Controllers Association “spoke out forcefully about the stress that the current funding levels and uncertainty create for the recruiting, training, and maintaining of air-traffic controllers.” Unless something changes, we’re looking at a pretty dire future of air traffic control.

Grizzle advocates for restructuring the FAA to send air traffic control operations to an independent, not-for-profit organization that would still be overseen by the appropriate federal agency but that would remove the politics from hiring and staffing functions. As Grizzle notes, the FAA oversees itself and “must split its focus” between ATC and civil aviation safety. He continues,

“Transforming air traffic control will provide a sharper focus on safety for employees and travelers while ensuring the system can accommodate the inevitable increase in air travel in the years to come.”

Check out the entire piece here.



Making the Skies Over New York Smooth & Functional

Published By#ModernSkies

The skies over New York feature some of the most congested and complicated air space in the country. This is certainly not news to those who regularly travel over the state, nor will it surprise them to read that New York’s airports consistently rank among the most delayed. Ask travelers what the solution is, though, and most will throw their hands up in frustration.

A quartet of senior executives from some of the largest airlines recently penned an article for Crain’s Business New York detailing exactly that solution, and it’s worth a read if you haven’t seen it yet. Tim Campbell, senior vice president of air operations at American Airlines, Jeff Martin, executive vice president of operations at JetBlue Airways, Craig Drew, senior vice president for air operations at Southwest Airlines, and Howard Attarian, senior vice president of flight operations at United Airlines, wrote:

“ … [T]he creation of a federally chartered, not-for-profit air traffic control organization is the only way to drive meaningful transformation from a bureaucracy that hasn’t fundamentally changed in decades. It’s hard to imagine a high-performance organization that lacks certainty of funding beyond one or two years, and the ability to independently raise capital for major infrastructure projects. Our proposal would eliminate uncertainties created by the federal budget process and the organization would be governed by a board that represents and is accountable to all users of the system.

“Multiple Federal Aviation Administration reports, independent studies and air-traffic-control organizations in some 60 countries suggest a step like this toward modernization would help to reduce delays and dramatically improve the flying experience in the U.S.”

For New Yorkers and others who travel through the state’s airports, that means fewer delays, more on-time flights and less of a chance that a political fight in Washington, D.C., is going to muck up a long-awaited vacation. As the piece notes, more people are flying every year and our economy is growing more dependent on moving cargo very long distances in very short amounts of time – this can only be achieved through flight. Unless there is significant change in the system that governs air space, we’re going to fall behind.


Click here to read the full piece.



The Washington Post: Revamping the FAA

Published By #ModernSkies

The Washington Post weighed in in 2015 on the serious need for air traffic control reform, saying, “Everyone involved in the aviation industry – from airlines to unions – wants more stability.”

That’s exactly what isn’t present under the current system.

The Washington Post editorial board wrote:

“… [T]here is a growing consensus that the FAA could do as well, or even better, at less cost in both dollars and political hassle. Its budget comes from a pastiche of taxes, user fees and appropriations that are subject to constant interest-group lobbying, partisan feuding and, more recently, the blunt force of sequestration. The FAA got caught up in a partial shutdown when one of its perennial short-term reauthorization bills lapsed in August 2011; in April 2013 the agency had to furlough 10 percent of air-traffic controllers due to sequestration-related funding disruptions.”

All of that contributes to instability. As the editorial noted, the United States’ air safety record is second to none, and an inordinate amount of credit and respect is due to the hard-working men and women in the towers and at the FAA. It’s time, though, to change the status quo that requires controllers to use World War II era technology in a 21st Century world.

We all know that the details of such a tremendous shift are critical but in “theory,” the Post agrees that a new organization separate from the FAA would “get politics out of the funding” and “levy charges on the system’s various users according to presumably more objective, business-like criteria.”

Click here to read the Post editorial in full.