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AOPA and ATC Privatization



 
 
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  #11  
Old September 3rd 03, 05:07 AM
David H
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Chip,

Thank you for raising this issue. I saw AOPA's post on this issue their
website last week and was dismayed by what I saw: AOPA seemed to be going out
of their way to pick a fight with the controllers union, and seemed to be not
only siding with the administration, they seemed to be cozying up to them.
What most visitors to AOPA's website probably don't realize is that the story
that currently appears on their website is actually toned down quite a bit -
the original version was even worse. When I saw their first posting, it made
me grab the phone and call them asking what the hell they were thinking. They
did change the story soon after I finished my call (I copied the original
language so I could check to see if they changed theirs - they did), but the
overall tone of the story remains incedibly short-sighted, if you ask me.

Here are the points about their initial story that I made when I called AOPA:

Throughout the story, they referred repeatedly to "union bosses." This is a
term often used by anti-union activists and likely to at the very least rub
people in the controllers unions the wrong way. I pointed out that Phil Boyer
probably wouldn't appreciate being referred to as "the pilot lobby boss" and
suggested they modulate their rhetoric a bit. After my call, they removed
several references to "union bosses" (changing them to people "in leadership
positions of unions representing FAA employees") but not all of them.
Regardless of your political affiliation or your overall views on the relative
merits and shortcomings of the labor movement, that this is not the language
that any organization uses to refer to their friends and allies. It's the
language you use to refer to your enemies and opponents. This may not make any
difference to you or me, but language counts, and most people in labor unions
are pretty sensitive to this sort of thing - it's a "codeword" they are very
familiar with (ask any union representative, they know what it means when
someone uses this term). It sets a really bad tone for future relations, and
it's completely unnecessary - what does it get you? Seems very petty and
misguided to me.

There was also a sentence that read, "But the ad uses some Clinton-like word
tricks." I questioned what Bill Clinton had to do with this issue, and pointed
out that many Americans (and presumably at least some AOPA members) might feel
that the present adminstration has its own well-documented record of deceit to
account for, and in any event it seemed stupid to me to inject partisan
politics into this issue where there didn't seem to be any. Going into a
fight, why the heck do you poke people (from whom you may need help) in the eye
and potentially alienate those who could othrwise be your allies?

My overall point was that while AOPA and the controllers unions (which AOPA
never identifies by name, which seemed odd) appear to have some differences of
opinion, we (pilots, and as our representative, AOPA) ought to be looking at
each other as allies, not adversaries. We all know that the present
administration is pushing hard for ATC privatization, and they're not going to
stop with just 69 towers. When the next battle comes, and it will as sure as
the sun will rise tomorrow, how strong is our alliance with the ATC unions
going to be? With this kind of juvenile ****ing-match that AOPA seems engaged
in, do you think the ATC unions are going to stick their necks out for pilots?

MAYBE some of the union's statements were not 100% accurate - I don't know, I
haven't seen them (and AOPA doesn't offer any examples up as proof) but it
looks to me like Phil Boyer got tweaked off by something he saw ("if anybody
tells you that AOPA supports privatizing ATC, you tell them that's a damn
lie"). Great. Good job of finessing the diplomacy there, Phil. Look, we're
going to NEED these people on our side in the next round. Maybe we don't agree
on every single detail, but lets not work to make the divisions any greater
than they already are. Beating up on the controllers union may feel good for
the moment, but the next time the white house is looking for a piece of
government to sell off to the lowest bidder, don't you think it might be useful
if the head of the ATC union was inclined to take your call?

I think AOPA needs to really take a good, long, hard look at itself and how it
has mishandled relations with the controllers unions. This is politics 101,
and I expect a heck of a lot more nuance and sophistication from a group that
represents 400,000 pilots. It doesn't take a lifetime of experience lobbying
at the federal level to know how to finess tactical differences and come out
with a public position that at least makes it LOOK like you're standing
shoulder-to-shoulder with your natural allies. Unfortunately, AOPA's public
position on this strikes me as childish, amaturish, and ultimately
self-inflicted damage.

I hope other AOPA members will let them know that the folks in ATC are not the
enemy here and that AOPA had better stop bashing them if they expect them to
lend a hand the next time their help is needed...'cause it's going to be.

Just my 4 cents,

David Herman
Boeing Field (BFI), Seattle, WA
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Visit the Pacific Northwest Flying forum:
http://www.smartgroups.com/groups/pnwflying

Chip Jones wrote:

My AOPA membership comes up for yearly renewal at the end of September.
Today, I got a membership renewal request via email from the organization.

Here is my response:

Dear AOPA,

The question arises. Why should an FAA enroute air traffic controller who
is neither a pilot nor an aircraft owner continue to financially support
AOPA? AOPA has publicly accused my labor organization (NATCA) of misleading
other AOPA members concerning the looming Congressional action on ATC
privatization.

AOPA has been running the following quotes on the AOPA website:

"AOPA members are asking about TV ads claiming that Congress is about to
privatize air traffic control. Others have been asked to sign post cards
misrepresenting both AOPA's position and what Congress has done. Both the
ads and the cards are the efforts of labor unions. And both are bending the
truth."

NATCA is not misleading the flying public on this issue. NATCA factually
reports that the Congress is about to authorize ATC privatization by
allowing the FAA to offer 69 FAA air traffic control towers to the lowest
private sector bidder. Some of these towers are among the busiest towers in
the nation. The pending FAA reauthorization bill's language is clear and
not subject to misinterpretation or wishful thinking. It will authorize the
FAA to contract out ATC services to the lowest bidder. Further, after the
year 2007, all FAA air traffic services will be on the table for possible
out sourcing. Privatization is privatization. There is no bending of the
truth involved.

"Make no mistake. AOPA is adamantly opposed to any effort to privatize air
traffic control or charge user fees for safety services," said AOPA
President Phil Boyer. "We have fought, and will continue to fight, attempts
to take the responsibility for aircraft separation and control away from the
federal government " and "If anybody tries to tell you that AOPA supports
privatizing ATC, you tell them that's a damned lie," Boyer said. "AOPA is
dedicated to the benefit of all general aviation, particularly GA pilots.
It's a much broader vision than that of a union leader."

What a bunch of hot air! That AOPA can swallow the rest of the current FAA
reauthorization bill before the Congress in spite of the clear language
authorizing ATC privatization seems to point to one of two things. Either
AOPA is extremely short sighted or else AOPA is bending the truth herself on
this issue. National ATC privatization is a clear threat to general
aviation interests, yet AOPA seems willing to allow such privatization to
begin, piece by piece, tower by tower, because the "rest of the bill" is
beneficial to GA. Not with my money...

I will gladly renew my AOPA dues if you can convince me that AOPA is on the
right side of the current ATC privatization issue.

Chip Jones
AOPA 04557674
Atlanta ARTCC

For even money, I'll betcha they don't even answer me...


Ads
  #12  
Old September 3rd 03, 11:19 AM
Steven P. McNicoll
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"John Smith" wrote in message
...

I bid $1 - is that low enough to get them? How about 1c? How about just
giving me the lot.

Surely you mean the highest bidder??????


To the highest bidder? Hmmm..... I thought the reason for this
quasi-privatization was to save money, but it is the US government, after
all. You may be right.


  #13  
Old September 3rd 03, 01:25 PM
Mark Kolber
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On Tue, 2 Sep 2003 20:23:54 -0700, "Peter Duniho"
wrote:

I looked at the quotes Mark provided. All I see is language that
*prohibits* the privitization of ATC, but which makes clear that the
*existing* contract tower program is still legal.


And can be expanded to new airports and a group of airports that are
being examined. And the prohibition automatically expires in 4 years.

NATCA is simply taking the position that the conference version uses
"prohibition" language while expanding privatization.

The original house version permitted privatization only for
(a) towers already in the contract program
(b) non-towred airports without towers that qualify for contract
towers
(c)airports with non-federal towers that qualify for contract towers

The original Senate version permitted privatization only for
(a) towers already in the contract program


The compromise version permits privatization only for
(a) towers already in the contract program
(b) non-towred airports without towers that qualify for contract
towers
(c) airports with non-federal towers that qualify for contract towers
(d) any new Towers
(e) a group of existing towers that are identified in the Inspector
General report about expanding the contract tower program

....and =any= tower is fare game in 4 years.


You can disagree with NATCA's view that the conference report
represents, for privatization, something akin to being "a little bit
pregnant", but it is as legitimate a reading of the information as
AOPA's "don't worry, overall, GA gains more than it loses in the bill"
stance.


Mark Kolber
APA/Denver, Colorado
www.midlifeflight.com
======================
email? Remove ".no.spam"
  #14  
Old September 3rd 03, 02:43 PM
Ron Natalie
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"Scott Lowrey" wrote in message news:[email protected]
"Chip Jones" said
"Peter Duniho" wrote in message
...

I'm with Ron. Given the name of the organization, why SHOULD you

support
them?


LOL, I suppose I was naive enough to assume that AOPA's interests in
protecting GA's public access to the NAS went hand in hand with my public
service as a NAS ATC operator. Alas, I fear I was mistaken.


Hang in there, Chip. Is there a controller's association I can join? : )

NATCA offers associate memberships to non-FAA types..


  #15  
Old September 3rd 03, 04:28 PM
Dan Luke
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"David H" wrote:
[excellent post snipped]

What a refreshing voice of reason. I hope you mailed Phil a copy.
--
Dan
C172RG at BFM


  #16  
Old September 3rd 03, 04:42 PM
G.R. Patterson III
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John Smith wrote:

Surely you mean the highest bidder??????


No. The Feds are going to contract out the work in the towers. They will pay
some private company to do this work. Each contract will go to whatever company
proves they can do the job for the least amount of money. The "lowest bidder".

George Patterson
A friend will help you move. A really good friend will help you move
the body.
  #17  
Old September 3rd 03, 04:54 PM
Chip Jones
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"Mark Kolber" wrote in message
...
[snipped]


I think it ultimately comes down to this: The conference report that
NATCA is complaining about permits privatization to a larger degree
than the original House version and to a much larger degree than the
Senate version.


Bingo. Both the House and the Senate voted on bills that *prohibited* ATC
privatization beyond the current contract tower program. The FAA lobbied
against the bills as passed. The White House threatened a veto. The House
and Senate bills went into the reconciliation process as an AOPA/NATCA
victory against ATC privatization.

During the reconciliation process, the conferees, under intense White House
pressure, re-wrote the language in such a way that FAA VFR towers not
currently privatized may be contracted out. There are 71 of those towers.
2 of them are in Alaska (PAMR and PAJN). The Administration agreed that the
two Alaska towers in contention (both in the home state of Don Young, R-
Alaska chairman of the reconcioliation conference) could stay FAA, leaving
the other 69 to be contracted out. Also, rather than indefinitely
prohibiting by law further outsourcing of other Federal ATC services (like
Tracons and Centers), the reconciliation conference put into effect a
"sunset clause", making 2007 the year that wholesale privatization of the
system becomes possible.

This disturbs controllers because both the Republican House and the
Republican Senate voted decisively vefore the summer recess to prohibit ATC
privatization. The Reconciliation team inserted the new language when they
"reconciled" the two bills, LOL. Further disturbing controllers is that
AOPA abandoned the fight at this point because other provisions of the
reconciled bill are GA friendly.


Ultimately NATCA's allegiance has to be to controllers. And, while I
haven't seen any numbers on this, I wouldn't doubt for a minute that
contract towers means less ATC jobs. So NATCA's position is
understandable and quite legitimate.


This is true too. As a Center guy. I really don't have much of a job
problem if every tower and every tracon in America goes private. I still
get paid. I don't even have a problem if my Center goes private. I have
the job skills, I am very very good at what I do, and I will get paid. If
we go by personal performance, I get paid. If every GA aircraft in America
gets grounded because of exhorbitant ATC user fees in the next decade, what
do I care? I get paid. The question to me is, who will sign my paycheck at
the ARTCC? This is important to me because I truely believe that the NAS
belongs to the nation (rather than the commercial users) much like the
interstate highway system belongs to car drivers and the Intracoastal Water
Way belongs to boaters. This should be important to you if you fly business
aviation or general aviation, because the Boeings, Lock-marts, airlines and
ATA's of this nation don't give a rat's ass about your love of personal
flying and they'd love nothing better than to user fee you right out of
their way. Let them sign my paycheck, and I quit working for you and begin
to work for them. Nothing personal...




AOPA has a broader view. While from a GA standpoint, contact towers
probably are to ATC what HMOs are to medical care, our issues are
broader than privatization. AOPA probably feels that there are far
more benefits to GA in the overall bill and that it needs to be
passed. The privatization language is open enough to leave the battle
for another day.


I'm sqauwking now. We appear to me to be at a juncture in this debate
similar to the old saying about the Nazi's in Germany. You know the adage.
"They came for the Gypsies, and I said nothing. Then they came for the
homosexuals, and I said nothing. Then they came for the Jews, and I said
nothing. And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for
me..." This is NATCA's basic position. I am amazed that AOPA can't read
the same writing on the wall while there is still time to save the day.
Fighting this battle on the field of 2007, we will be 69 ATC towers closer
to ATC user fees.

Chip, ZTL



  #18  
Old September 3rd 03, 04:54 PM
Chip Jones
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"John Smith" wrote in message
...
[snipped]

NATCA factually
reports that the Congress is about to authorize ATC privatization by
allowing the FAA to offer 69 FAA air traffic control towers to the

lowest
private sector bidder.


I bid $1 - is that low enough to get them? How about 1c? How about just
giving me the lot.

Surely you mean the highest bidder??????



Err, no. I mean *lowest* bidder. The idea is to save money. The FAA (and
your taxes) pays for the infrastructure. The *low* bidder runs the ATC
facility for the cheapest price. The way the contractor saves money is to
slash salaries and cut staffing. ATC "on the cheap" is literally what is
going on.

Chip, ZTL


  #19  
Old September 3rd 03, 04:55 PM
Peter Duniho
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"Mark Kolber" wrote in message
...
And can be expanded to new airports and a group of airports that are
being examined.


As far as I know, nothing in the contract tower program previously
prohibited such expansion. How does this bill make things *worse*?

And the prohibition automatically expires in 4 years.


Not an uncommon clause in any variety of lawmaking.

Recall that the agreements intended to protect Meigs Field had similar
clauses. No one was going around claiming that, because of those clauses,
the agreements were actually intended to shut the airport down.

Pete


  #20  
Old September 3rd 03, 05:06 PM
Chip Jones
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"Peter Duniho" wrote in message
...
[snipped]


And the prohibition automatically expires in 4 years.


Not an uncommon clause in any variety of lawmaking.


But not something that was in either the House bill or the Senate bill that
was being reconciled.


Recall that the agreements intended to protect Meigs Field had similar
clauses. No one was going around claiming that, because of those clauses,
the agreements were actually intended to shut the airport down.


What an interesting point to bring up. Let's see, and KCGX is what now,
other than permanently *closed*?

Chip, ZTL



 




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