With the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) overseeing contract talks between the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the often vitriolic rhetoric between the two sides was dialed down several notches last month.
As debate over FAA financing continues to roil, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an analysis of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund in which it found one scenario showing the fund would reach a zero balance by the end of Fiscal Year 2007.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and the FAA walked away from the bargaining table on April 5, with the agency declaring an impasse and sending the dispute to Congress. A couple of weeks later NATCA’s well oiled publicity machine cranked out a release announcing, “NATCA accepts FAA’s public offer to return to bargaining table,” but an FAA spokesman said that the union was “grasping at straws.”
In testimony before the Senate appropriations subcommittee on transportation early last month, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey continued to play her cards close to the vest on plans to finance the agency in the future.
In a curious turn of events, the FAA last month found itself launching its nationwide ADS-B program in Washington and boosting the system’s air traffic benefits, while at the same time noting that, at the request of Alaska controllers, ADS-B returns had been removed–at least temporarily–from scopes at the Anchorage ARTCC. The timing of the two situations underscores the tension between the agency and Natca, its most obdurate union.
Efforts by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) to force resumption of contract talks with the FAA through congressional maneuverings failed early last month when the House narrowly defeated a bill that would have sent both sides back to the bargaining table.
In one of the FAA’s more unusual program launches, agency Administrator Marion Blakey publicly announced last month the formal launch of the nationwide ADS-B project, a month before her senior bureaucrats were due to decide whether to adopt the system, and six weeks after other top-ranking officials had decreed the removal of ADS-B aircraft targets from controllers’ radar scopes at Anchorage Center.
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey last month reiterated the agency’s position that automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) is the “backbone” of the next-generation air traffic management system.
Twenty students from China’s Air Traffic Management Bureau (ATMB) completed six months of U.S. training late last month and are returning home to put their new knowledge to work in that nation’s emerging civilian ATC system. The FAA and Chinese government initiated the program with the goal of training future leaders of China’s Air Traffic Management Bureau.
Despite assurances from FAA Administrator Marion Blakey that the agency was near a new financing plan, user-fee storm clouds continue to roil on the horizon without form or shape.