Tuesday, November 29, 2005



The GAO has produced yet another report on the FAA. Again, contrary to AOPA President Boyer, it details the problem of falling revenues and rising demands (pg 12). But it is in the conclusions on page 81 that contain interest for many parties:
The Secretary should direct the FAA Administrator to (1) balance current and
long-term investment priorities; and (2) use all available management tools and,
after establishing a record of improved financial management, explore more
fundamental changes that could provide greater financial management flexibility.
…We continue to believe that FAA should explore further uses of available
management tools such as opportunities to contract out its services; consolidate
major facilities; and accelerate decommissioning of ground-based navigation
aids, as we have noted in this report.

The first part looks like another euphemism for ‘user fees’, or at least the authority to assess them as deemed necessary, as well as removing encumbrances that trap the FAA in free-fall spending. The second part is of interest to air traffic controllers and pilots. The controllers, since this bolsters the case for further contracting out of tower functions, which we believe will eventually lead to the contracting and/or consolidation of TRACONs and centers as well.

The message for pilots is mixed. Some favored facilities may be decommissioned or become unusable due to lack of proper maintenance, and new fees seem to be in the future. At the same time, new navigational tools will help bring aviation into the 21st century, an improvement long overdue.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


At Odds with the Mirror…again

We hate to sound like a stuck record, but AOPA President Phil Boyer continues trying to make arguments that have no supporting evidence and contradict previously held positions. We last mentioned this just a few posts ago on November 9th (‘So What Else is New?’). And again, the issue is user fees. This time the commentary is over the FAA’s 2206-2010 Flight Plan. Mr. Boyer makes the assertion here that the aviation trust fund is not running out of money. Once again, he doesn’t tell us how he reaches that conclusion.

The FAA, on the other hand, actually has made a case that, if you disagree with it, requires actual refutation, not just contradiction. We discussed the relevant GAO report on August 13th, available here. Addition data is available in the FAA’s own annual report.

Mr. Boyer did, however, cite needed cost savings as a motivating factor in support of contracting out Flight Service to a private company. He makes the claim here, here, here, here and here, among others.

Until Mr. Boyer actually decides what he believes, he is fighting a losing battle.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Thoughts on the Day

Thanksgiving Day presents flight service controllers with a dichotomy this year. Those controllers who were able to retire before the Lockheed contract went into effect are generally in good spirits. Some in the legacy (non-closing) stations, in fact, are ecstatic with how things turned out for them; drawing both retirement and the same salary that they were before (at least for the next three years) without having to move, continuing their employment with a top-tier company.

On the other end of the spectrum are controllers who have lost a great deal; a retirement they have been working on for as much as 24 years that is now a complete loss with little chance of recovery, a career, roots in a community, a loved home.

Between the two extremes are situations of every stripe. Hope is not completely gone for a bit of annuity repair as pending legislation would allow some to regain their vesting. Others have glimmers of hope for future employment somewhere in the federal government.

But it cannot be denied that we rarely see such a devastation of an entire profession, which makes thankfulness a more difficult thing to come buy compared to the ‘national average.’ We do not downplay the tragedies that afflicted the Gulf Coast this year; very few controllers lost homes and families to natural disaster (we know some who did and they are in our prayers). But we’ve found that knowing the misery of others at the hands of nature does little to soothe the wounds deliberately caused buy the hand of our fellow man, FAA executives in this instance.

So what is the answer? We have no great wisdom to offer, or words to soothe; we are not philosophers, councilors or ministers. There is no single answer to give, perhaps, since there are so many legitimate reasons to be bitter. We can only realize that as long as our focus on what has befallen us, we cannot be consoled by that which may later be a deliverance. Yes, continue the fight for what is rightfully due those who were fired unjustly, lied to, denied employment opportunities that went to the inexperienced, had pension contributions literally stolen. But do so in a manner that moves forward in climbing out of the rubble, not backward with vengeance.

In all things, look around; take inventory. Each of us has building blocks for future success that we cannot see unless we are willing to acknowledge them and be thankful for them; families, friends, talents, contacts, abilities. Recognize, celebrate and embrace them. Then let your rebuilding begin.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you this day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Whither the Staffing...part 2

Some time ago we mused about how many controllers Lockheed Martin actually got from the 2200 or more that were available on the day they won the contract. We have it on excellent authority that Lockheed wanted at minimum 1750, and got about 1650.

Where did the others go? Around 350 to 400 were placed elsewhere in the Federal Government (mostly in the FAA). That leaves 200-300 who most likely retired and left flight service, although we've heard rumors of a few that refused to work for Lockheed even though they were not able to retire.

We will be watching the effects on service, though, as delays in the rollout of technology continue, and more controllers anticipate leaving as summer approaches.

Monday, November 21, 2005


The Lies of Joann Kansier

As mentioned before, Joanne Kansier is the head of the FAA’s competitive sourcing office. She was responsible for managing the process that eventually led to the Lockheed Martin contract for Flight Services. Her efforts were viewed positively by a magazine called Washington Technology when they handed out what they call the Greater Washington Government Contractors awards. You can read about the Public Sector Partner of the Year award they gave her here.

Noteworthy in her comments was the following:

She worked with contractors and the FAA’s human resources department to create
an attractive benefits package for FAA employees who transitioned to Lockheed

“I did everything I could for our employees,” she said.
Of course she did nothing of the sort. Regular readers of this blog have seen our recitation of the ignored requirements that are set upon government when employees are about to be RIFed, and we’re not inclined to reitereate them all here. We will say again that Ms. Kansier probably violated article 3350.2c (requiring her to put RIFed controllers in jobs they're qualified for) because she knew her efforts would fail if she did not shepard Flight Service controllers into the contractor’s arms; there was no other place for Lockheed to obtain a workforce.

The obfuscations do not end there, however:

Kansier’s office has now turned its attention to overseeing the contract. She
describes it as a win-win for government and the pilots who rely on the
automated flight service stations. The government saves money, the pilots get
better service, she said.
This assumes that everything will go as planned. So far, it’s not. Promised improvements to technology is slipping behind schedule, and the cost savings continue to be pushed lower. Pilots are still being served in the same manner as they were before the contract, and that is likely to continue beyond 2006.

The article mentions that on the day that the controllers were fired and Lockheed began it’s slippery slide down a list of broken promises, Ms. Kansier’s husband sent her flowers. We can’t help but wonder what the spouses of the Enron executives did for them when the company declared bankruptcy.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


So What Else Is New?

Time and time again we’ve mentioned that AOPA president Phil Boyer has been fighting a losing, contradictory battle by supporting Flight Service (FSS) outsourcing on the one hand and opposing further Air Traffic Control (ATC) privatization/contracting and user fees on the other.

The issue is up on his radar screen again, as witnessed by an AOPA on-line article here. As usual, it smacks of denial and illogic; the former because of his support of the Lockheed FSS contract undercuts his goals, the latter due to lack of supporting argument. For example:

“…user fees and privatization of air traffic control services could remove that
important oversight function from the hands of elected officials...”
Notice in the article that no reason is given as to why this would be so. Mr. Boyer further states the following:

“The FAA must be very careful not to advance funding policies that would
dismantle the air transportation network…”
Again, no support for this 'dismantling' conclusion.

Pilots may not know it yet, but Mr. Boyer has cost them dearly with the precedent he set in support of contract ATC functions. His inability to articulate a rationale for positions in support of pilots should have them doubly worried. AOPA members need to ask themselves if this lack of articulation and results is what they want on their president. And they should ask it quickly.

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