Flashback: STRIKE: Corporates cope with ATC disruption

 - August 1, 2022, 8:15 AM

With AIN Media Group's Aviation International News and its predecessor Aviation Convention News celebrating the company's 50th year of continuous publication this year, AIN’s editorial staff is going back through the archives each month to bring readers some interesting events that were covered over the past half-century.

REWIND: PATCO’s nationwide strike—which has thrown airline schedules into a tizzy, forcing passenger delays and flight cancellations—surprisingly has not wreaked its expected devastating effect on corporate aviation despite its fourth priority ranking by FAA.

A telephone survey by the editors of Aviation Convention News just before this issue went to press found that while confusion and doubt reigned in corporate flight departments for the first day or two following the walkout of 12,000 controllers, the situation quickly returned to near normal. Save for occasional pockets of delays, the corporates are not unduly suffering as a result of their priority ranking behind military, emergency flights, trunk airlines, commuters, and air taxis. The under 12,500-pound segment of corporate aviation did receive a setback for the first couple of weeks of the strike when, by FAA edict they were prohibited from filing IFR. After an avalanche of protests, the aviation agency lifted that ban on August 17 and the under 12,500-pound airplanes joined their heavier corporate fleet brethren on the airways.

FASTFORWARD: On August 3, 1981, the majority of unionized professional air traffic controllers (PATCO) members went on strike seeking shorter hours, improved pay, and a better retirement package, and in the process, breaking a 1955 law that banned government employees from striking. President Ronald Reagan declared the work stoppage a “peril to national safety” and ordered the striking controllers to return to work within 48 hours.

Two days later, after the arrest of a group of PATCO’s leadership and the cancellation of thousands of airline flights, Reagan fired the union members who remained on strike and banned them from being rehired. He then proceeded to have them replaced with a combination of supervisors, non--striking air traffic controllers, and military controllers. While the FAA then began rebuilding its ATC ranks with new controller applicants, it would be years until the agency replenished its pool of controllers. In 1987 a new union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association was certified and its leadership promised never to condone an illegal strike.

In 1993, President Clinton officially rescinded the ban on rehiring the fired controllers.