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Author Topic: Condition of ATC  (Read 15947 times)
LHP50
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« on: March 06, 2007, 10:52:34 AM »

Let me preface this by stating I am an "old timer" with over 24 years in the FAA at LAX Tower, LAX Approach and Phoenix Approach.  I believe I have the best damn job in the world and have been well rewarded for the work I do.  I am also politically conservative by nature and am not 'big' on organized labor. 
The current working conditions for air traffic controllers are by far the worst I've seen.  Even in the early 80's, at least management, supervisors and controllers all got down in the trenches together to get the job done.  The current atmosphere is that controllers are just 'employees'.  They are not treated with respect or trusted to do the right thing for the right reasons.  Our working schedules are changed at a day's notice, one controller can't leave to get food for all of the others, (I miss chow runs), and we are not included in decision making processes.  Adding to this deterioration of conditions is the fact that Supervisors are no longer required to be trained to do our jobs.  In the early 80's some of my supervisors were also some of the best controllers I knew.  They had respect because they earned it by doing the job.  (I was a Supervisor in Los Angeles Tower for a year)  ATC Supervisors are now called "Front Line Managers'.  They certify on two operational positions and only work them for 8 hours a month under very light traffic.  They never work moderate to heavy traffic or the positions they are not certified on.  None of the last 5 FLMs hired at Phoenix TRACON ever worked traffic of this volume in the terminal environment.  I am not criticizing them as individuals, it is FAA policy that is flawed.  The upper levels of Management do not understand the work we do.  They either never did it themselves or were not very capable at it if they did.
The result now is that most of the old timers that can retire are retiring as soon as possible. The plan is to replace them with new hires making $8 per hour.  This is a bad plan.  3 years ago Phoenix TRACON had over 70 controllers who worked traffic.  Today we are at 52.  By the end of April we will be at 49.  While 70 is more than enough, 50 is by far too few.  Listen to 123.7 and 124.9 and recognize that they are combined 90% of the time.  Last year they were split 90% of the time.  Also, there are no longer 'hand off' positions open for departures on 119.2 and 126.8 during peak periods.  If you hear a pilot call but do not hear the controller answer, there is a good chance the controller is off frequency doing their own coordination with another controller.
I guess the bottom line is that I want all of you to know that these are hard times.  Most controllers are extremely dedicated civil servants.  There is only one way to do this job and it is the best that you can do it every time.  We don't work because our management requires it, it is personal accountability and pride that drives our profession. 

LH at Phoenix TRACON 
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Shepdawg
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« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2007, 12:37:58 PM »

New here, I am a controller at Yuma just down te road from you guys. The saddest thing to me is that the FAA believes they can replace all of the retireing contollers with new bodies and it will go off without a hitch. Upper management has no idea about the nature of the job. I did 4 years in the Air Force, currently 2 years in the DOD as a civilian and will not go to the FAA due to the current state of "affairs". It has been my dream to test myself with the toughest traffic such as PHX but I wont do it until they get things right. Good luck to you and thanks for your service.

Shep
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LHP50
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« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2007, 12:49:58 PM »

Shep, we need you.  Have faith and give it a shot.  Things will turn around.  My youngest son is now working ATC at Sheppard AFB.  It CAN"T stay like this forever.  Bad things are going to happen, it's a matter of 'when' not 'if'.
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tyketto
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2007, 01:01:46 PM »

This is the part where myself and a number of others here feel useless.  undecided

There are a number of people who do control in the virtual world, using the same procedures as you do in the towers, TRACONs, RAPCONs, and Centers, that would love to be in your position right now. In fact, there are some who have controlled in the virtual world, used that for training purposes, and actually have a head start at the training academy in OKC!

If it weren't for a couple of outstanding circumstances, I and a couple of others would be one of them. The hire age limit really throws a spanner in the works for everyone, and while I can say I'm rather very proficient with ATC, as I've passed that limit, I no longer qualify to be hired. That limit is one major thing that holds a lot of people back, making it even tougher than it already is for you.

You don't know how many times I'd had loved to step foot into L30 TRACON and start working the skies.. but alas...

BL.
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PHL Approach
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« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2007, 01:37:16 PM »

You don't know how many times I'd had loved to step foot into L30 TRACON and start working the skies.. but alas...

I feel your pain. I think it's ridiculous that they really won't do full time off the street hiring and when they do they want a four year degree or four years of work experience. Now Im not past the age like you are Brad. But Im at a disadvantage due to myself being too young to fall under those requirements they have for off the street hiring. Yea sure Im on the waiting list for CCBC and have been for a year and a half. And still have to wait to 2009 till my turn comes. Quite frankly, Im not looking forward to going through more schooling to do something that really doesn't require a college degree since obviously some of the best controllers in the US never even graduated High School or never dreamed of college in the 80's. I've always heard stories that the guy without any education sitting next to the guy with a Masters Degree is in some cases a much better controller. Lately, I've been thinking about getting in the Navy or USAF. Though the USAF talks about how they cant job lock. I'd probably get stuck with refueling aircraft or something. Thats why I just say no ATC, forget about me. Only time will tell how I go about to doing this.

Here are some of the "first" Terminal off the street openings. 4 year degree or 4 years work experience and your good.

Openings include 2-BOS, 2-BED, 2-FMH
http://jobs.faa.gov/asap_detail.asp?vac_id=92779

4-ACK
http://jobs.faa.gov/asap_detail.asp?vac_id=92985
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LHP50
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« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2007, 02:05:26 PM »

The USAF will 'job lock', almost.  My son had to wait almost a year, and now it is a 6 year commitment for USAF ATC.  He did agree that if he didn't qualify for ATC he would accept another position.  I hope no one thought I was whining.  I walked off the street in 1982 into Los Angeles Tower.  It was one of the most exciting times of my life.  I love my job.

LH- "kicking ass and taking planes"
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CntrllrATC
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« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2007, 02:50:44 PM »

I came into ATC in '82 just after the strike in '81 by going the Air Force route with the hopes of going into the FAA. I locked into ATC in the AF by using the delayed enlistment program since ATC was becoming saturated in the AF. I had to wait 6 months for my slot at the time starting in April of 1981. After 10 years in the AF with multiple ratings (mostly tower) I decided to get out as I was approaching the age cut-off of 31. Of course at that time there was a hiring freeze in the FAA. I took the entrance exam anyway and scored 102.1 with my 5 points veterans preference. The FAA wouldn't even talk to me....10 years experience in ATC and the door was closed. So to stay current I went the Air Guard route and did  combat ATC for a few years hoping something would change. The FAA didn't but the contract towers were starting to flourish so I applied and got picked up. We'll my 31st b-day passed along with my FAA dreams but the contract tower buisness has kept me in ATC and happy. So here I am, also with 24 years as a controller looking at the mess the FAA has created and thanking the heavens that there are contract towers out here for me to continue doing the job I love to do.
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Ronski
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« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2007, 02:53:23 PM »

LHP50, I don't think your whining but you have sure opened a can of worms.

Good luck smiley
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phlcontroller
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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2007, 03:56:33 PM »

Keep filing those grievances!!!!!! Keep the faith, be safe. Hold often! Give to the PAC!
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NWA ARJ
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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2007, 04:06:05 PM »

CntrllrATC:

How is the pay at contract towers? I am a senior at UND, and I graduate in May, and I am looking to work in a contract tower before I get picked up by the FAA. How is it working at a contract tower?
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Walters
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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2007, 04:18:06 PM »

I cant wait to be a controller
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CntrllrATC
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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2007, 05:34:47 PM »

CntrllrATC:

How is the pay at contract towers? I am a senior at UND, and I graduate in May, and I am looking to work in a contract tower before I get picked up by the FAA. How is it working at a contract tower?


NWA,
 
It's a blast, typically at VFR Towers you have a mix from Cessna's to the bigger metal. The pay is set by the DOL and is pretty good, actually better than starting pay in the FAA now...lol. If you would like more info give me a call 203-378-4106. That is the tower number and I'm there 9-5 EST monday-Thursday.

Rob
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davolijj
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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2007, 07:49:07 PM »

CntrllrATC:

How is the pay at contract towers? I am a senior at UND, and I graduate in May, and I am looking to work in a contract tower before I get picked up by the FAA. How is it working at a contract tower?


Most contract towers want a minimum of 1 year experiance as an FPL before they'll even look at you.  I'm aware UND gives it's students the CTO written, unfortunately it doesn't mean jack to Midwest, RVA, or Serco.  CntrllrATC is probably more in the loop than I am but I did a job search a couple years ago and that was the info I got...Experience.
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Regards
JD
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« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2007, 09:57:13 PM »

I started in the FAA in'88 in a center. I worked out a transfer to a vfr tower. Did that for five years. Tower was contracted out so transfered to a tracon. Been here for 12 years. Love the job! Truely no better feeling than running simultaneous staggered ILS approaches to intersecting runways with a mix from FLIBS to large metal! The job has treated me well. Initially took a pay cut from previous job, but the pay got better. Had some good supes and had some crappy ones! Worked next to supes that were so far down the toilet that they had no idea that I pulled their head out of the swirl! Worked next to other supes that knew better than to sit down a certain positions at certain times of the day. Recently attended a course on managing an Air Traffic Facility in OKC. The word there is in the near future, you will not see a controller make it to the ranks of manager. I think in the near future, you will see supes hired off the street. They will be business educated, college degreed, easier to mold(lobotomy) and be cheaper than promoting a controller. The FAA has spent much energy trying to run as a business, yet we make no widgets! We are not dependent on the economy being good for Joe consumer to buy our widgets, and we cannot reduce labor costs to make our widgets more profitable. For all those out there that are desiring to be controllers, be careful! In some countries, have a deal, go to jail. Look it up. How far do you think the FAA is from that here? There are new rules that try to determine if the controller intended to have the deal... I have always said, it is due to the professionalism and ethics of controllers worldwide that keeps everyone flying. Listen to the controllers on the feeds from other countries, they are professionals. We are white collar workers working blue collar hours. We are worthy enough to be trusted with thousands of lives daily including the Prez. yet we aren't trusted to get our lunch from a local fast food joint! One recent class of new hires scheduled to show up at OKC was for 40 students. 9 showed up! It is now the hiring practice to place an ad in a local newspaper of a hard to staff area for people wanting to become ATCers. In order for you to apply you must have a local address. There is a reason for this... they can't get outsiders to work there for what they are willing to pay because then the outsiders can't afford to live there. However, if you have a local address, you already live there and then the low pay won't be such a problem. I used to tell people of the exciting career potential with the FAA. I've done some career days at local high schools. I don't anymore. There are some major changes that need to be made and soon. For all you private pilots and corp pilots, the FAA's new way to pay for the FAA by user fees should have you screaming to your congressman. Imagine having to pay for each practise ILS you do or for each touch and go. It may be nearer than you think. Consider how many pilots will forego some needed practice approaches due to the cost, and now these pilots are out flying around! There is a good clip of the pilot of a Citation that skidded off the runway at AIY. This pilot was NOT IFR rated, yet he was flying a C525 on an IFR flight plan!
      After 19 years, I am considering becoming a supe. Why? Well first off, I like pay raises and when the FAA froze our pay for the next four years... Secondly, can one person make a difference? Perhaps not in the grand scheme of things (unless your name is Marion) but in my facility, maybe. For thse of you that do the VATSIM, have at it. Enjoy. Even though it's a sim, I'm sure it's a rush! That's one of the best aspects of the job, the rush or high you get after a push or emergency or just a normal days traffic with 3 miles and a thousand feet all the way to turning off the runway...
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sierra yankee
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« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2007, 10:46:57 AM »

Though we all have our grievances, I'm sure, NC is nowhere near as bad as what the FAA is becoming.  One disadvantage of our system is that trainees in centres now go about a year without any pay at all (during the classroom and simulator portions of training, before hitting the floor to work live traffic) -- although now from what I hear the new FAA hires qualify for food stamps during the initial months (years?) so this isn't quite as bad in comparison as it used to be.  I remember being pissed when my buddy started at $60k his first day in LA Center before he even took a D-side course, but those days are long gone.  If you were hired under the experienced controller program the unpaid training time wouldn't apply to you anyway, you'd draw a salary from day one.

Once you check out (which you can do in about 18 months from the day you start training, unlike in the USA where it can take several years), pay is in my opinion quite good -- at my facility (albeit the highest-paid one in Canada) you'd start at around $100k/yr, including base salary of around $80k and facility premium of about $20k, plus overtime.  Even the junior guys in my specialty are grossing about $140k (expect about $60k to get sucked back in taxes and deductions, of course).  It's similar at most centres;  tower controllers make substantially less (except for high-density ones like Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal).

Pension's good, benefits are good, working conditions (generally 6 days on/4 off as opposed to the FAA's 5/2 -- and you can get blocks of days or eves if you want them, none of this mid shift followed by eve followed by morning followed by early morning stuff that the FAA is known for) are pretty decent.  Supervisors are all fully-qualified controllers that have been operational for many years, and they are expected to continue to work in position except during the very busiest times when stand-back supervision is required.  Last week we had a blizzard that meant a lot of the evening shift guys didn't make it in until 2, 3 hours past their start time, and it was actually our sup that made up a lot of the shortfall;  I think he was on position for 3+ hours straight (very rare in Canada, usually it's more like 1-1.5 hours on, 45 minutes-1 hour off).

All that said, if the FAA continues to do this to its controllers, I'm sure our management will take note and it will affect our next round of collective bargaining negotiations (current agreement expires in 2009).  Getting something like the FAA pay scale (on average larger salaries, at a far lower tax rate) used to be a goal for us;  obviously now that's no longer the case.  One thing we do have in our favour is that our major airlines aren't bankrupt -- both AC and WestJet are doing very well -- but no doubt there will be a downturn at some point and that along with the FAA comparison will lead NC to seek concessions.  So right now, I'd say it's a good time to be getting into NC (we don't have age limits either -- one of the guys on my course started at 36 -- but you do need to obtain a work visa prior to applying if you're thinking of immigrating to Canada) but I have no idea what the future will bring.

If you (or anybody else) have other questions, feel free to post again or PM me;  I'm happy to help anybody who's interested in becoming a controller in Canada.
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