Bedeviled by political gamesmanship and misfortune, it’s a wonder the FAA gets anything done—never mind accomplishing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). With the latest transition in FAA leadership, we’ve come full circle to the situation that prevailed when President George W. Bush left office three years ago, with an interim administrator and no reauthorization.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
Air transport industry groups accept the inevitability of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flying in civil airspace. At the largest event of the unmanned systems industry earlier this month, speakers representing airline pilots and FAA air traffic controllers delivered a go-safely message to UAS proponents eager to gain access to the national airspace system to build the industry.
A report by the Transportation Department’s inspector general determined that the three-year 2009 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) will cost the FAA $669 million more than it would have cost to extend an earlier agreement that was signed in 2006.
Nearly three months after Henry “Hank” Krakowski was forced out as head of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO), the agency named acting head David Grizzle permanently to the post. Krakowski resigned as ATO COO on April 14, following a series of highly publicized incidents in which air traffic controllers were found sleeping on duty.
While fatigue has attracted the most attention as a cause of the recent well publicized air traffic controller errors, the Transportation Department’s top watchdog suggests that training and staffing may also play a large part.
Although House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman John Mica said on May 11 that “significant progress” was being made in FAA reauthorization talks between House and Senate conferees, he conceded that Congress may have to pass another short-term extension to give negotiators more time to iron out differences between the two pieces of legislation.
The fallout from what began with a single air traffic controller falling asleep on an overnight shift at Washington Reagan National Airport on March 23 continued to cascade late last month when the FAA unilaterally ended a practice whereby controllers voluntarily worked grueling shifts to accrue long weekends.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt on Sunday announced changes to air traffic controller scheduling practices that will allow controllers more time for rest between shifts. The fact that the leaders worked on the controller fatigue issue over a weekend underscores the attention they’re giving to the issue in the wake of several incidents where lone controllers have fallen asleep late at night.
Hank Krakowski, head of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO), resigned today amid the fallout of not one but two incidents in as many weeks where the sole controller on duty at a tower late at night fell asleep. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt accepted his resignation.