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Mon, Mar 31, 2008

FAA, NATCA Announce Agreement On Air Traffic Safety Action Program

"Agreement?" "FAA, NATCA?" Is It April 1st ALREADY?

We couldn't believe it, either... and no, this is NOT an April Fools story (but rest assured, those ARE coming!) On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association signed an agreement to create an Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP), designed to foster a voluntary, cooperative, non-punitive environment for the open reporting of safety of flight concerns by employees of the FAA.

It's not that we can't see why the agency and its controllers union wouldn't agree on the need for access to valuable safety information, that may not otherwise be obtainable, to be analyzed in order to develop skill enhancement or system corrective action to help solve safety issues. That part makes sense. We're just not used to reporting ANY agreement of late between the FAA and NATCA.

"I am gratified that the Air Traffic Controller segment of our workforce will now be able to volunteer information that will help us define conditions or circumstances that could lead to safety issues," said FAA Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell. "This system, which is in place throughout the industry, lets us know immediately when we have issues. We can dissect them together, find causes, spot trends, and implement solutions.

"Creating an atmosphere where controllers and their managers can identify, report and correct safety issues will go a long way in helping us further improve our safety record," Sturgell said.

The agreement is for 18 months and will begin at several targeted facilities. If the program is determined to be successful after a comprehensive review and evaluation, both sides intend for it to be a continuing program.

"NATCA is committed to improving air traffic control system safety and this program is a step forward in that goal," NATCA President Patrick Forrey said. "We believe safety would be enhanced if there were a systematic approach for all employees responsible for the safety of the traveling public to promptly identify and correct potential safety hazards. For the people NATCA represents, the benefits are clear: this provides us with protection from discipline when our members identify errors, and other performance-related issues affecting system safety.

"This type of program, which is widely used with the airlines and pilots, is essential to encourage employees to point out mistakes made in order to study why they occur and to develop solutions to enhance safety," Forrey said.

FMI: www.natca.org, www.faa.gov

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