Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bare Traffic Control

It must be Dump on Capital Airport week. Yesterday, Springfield’s loss of the Vietnam vets gathering was blamed, in part, on the airport no having a robust enough flight schedule. Today we find out that the airport’s lack of flights is having an effect on its air traffic controllers:

[Elizabeth Cory, an FAA spokeswoman] said declining traffic at Springfield also is making it tough for [air traffic controller] trainees to get sufficient practice.

In 2000, Springfield handled 72,560 takeoffs and landings, according to FAA records. Last year, the airport saw 42,851 landings and takeoffs. Since 2000, controller staffing has been reduced from 22 to 14 positions.
Yet most of the article is about how the controllers are overworked, understaffed, and having breakdowns. Sounds to me like they don’t have a lot to do, but then I know nothing about air traffic controlling.

In fact, I’m so ignorant that I didn’t realize that there was still an air traffic controllers union. I though Ronald Reagan destroyed that back in the ‘80s by firing all the striking controllers. However, what union there is doesn’t seem to be too effective:

The FAA reduced starting pay by 30 percent in 2006, when contract negotiations
reached a stalemate.

“It’s a pretty serious disincentive,” [Jeff Brennan, union reprsenattive] said. “They’re currently having problems filling classes. I’ve got two trainees at the facility right now, one of which is working a part-time job to make ends meet.”
Man, what’s the point of the union if the best deal they can get is a 30 percent pay cut. I could easily get my employer to cut my pay by that much even without union representation.

All kidding aside though, this story makes me a little nervous about flying in or out of Springfield. It actually makes me a littler nervous flying in or out of anywhere since I would guess other airports are facing similar problems with their controllers.

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