Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dude, Where's My Plane? FAA Recruiting High Schoolers To Be Air-Traffic Controllers

By Manifesto Joe

Full disclosure of motive: I couldn't pass up yet another opportunity to bash America's all-time most overrated president, Ronald Reagan, when I ran across this item. In 1981, The Great Prevaricator mass-fired over 11,000 members of PATCO, the air-traffic controllers union, for staging an illegal strike. He also ordered a lifelong ban on rehiring, eased 12 years later by President Clinton.

Reagan seemed mainly concerned with how tough he looked, rather than with the safety of U.S. air travelers. Now, 27 years later, the system hasn't fully recovered -- there are still fewer controllers despite the increase in air traffic -- and the scabs hired to replace the strikers are reaching retirement age. As they leave, the Federal Aviation Administration is desperate for warm bodies, even trolling high schools to recruit fresh grads into training programs.

Hold the phone. Readers, do you remember yourselves fresh out of high school? Hell, I graduated fifth in my high school class, but I was a mess during my freshman year in college. I had little self-discipline and was only beginning to develop a sense of responsibility. I would sleep in and cut some of those "101" classes, read the textbook and show up for the tests, and wonder why I got a B instead of an A. I dressed like a bum and then wondered why many people seemed to think I was one. I chain-smoked in public places. I missed deadlines for the student newspaper. It's amazing my G.P.A. never fell below 2.95. (I started making the dean's list when I was a junior and had grown up a bit.)

Again, I'm an example of someone who graduated from high school with honors. What about that student who made a C-plus in metal shop? You want this person controlling air traffic?

Here's the full article from that bastion of American newspaper journalism, the New York Post. I get the impression the Post has been trolling the high schools for cheap recruits as well. The difference is, you don't end up in a body bag after reading tabloid journalism. It's a much slower death, and only from the neck up.

Anyway, here's an excerpt from the Post exclusive:

The FAA has offered an unprecedented $100,000 bonus to air-traffic controllers throughout the country to lure them to the New York area's five understaffed radar centers - and has even begun trolling local high schools to recruit for the jobs.

The FAA began its recruitment efforts in high schools and through online ads on MySpace and Craigslist because of a severe staffing shortage and lack of experience among workers at its air-control towers.

One recent hire is a 20-year-old who is now reading the scopes for the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) center in Westbury, LI, officials said.

By 2011, 59 percent of all controllers will have less than five years on the job.

The recently hired 20-year-old man has a bachelor's degree in air-traffic control, but other new hires can come straight out of 12th grade. They go through three months of training before becoming "controllers in training" and eventually full-fledged staffers.

Let us once more ponder the Reagan legacy: Richer rich and poorer poor, deregulation of everything including lending banks, environmental horrors, and now frighteningly close calls at airports across the nation.

Here's a suggestion for President (I hope) Obama: Find every surviving member of the PATCO strike Class of '81 and offer them their jobs back, with big bonuses and raises. Then have the FAA let the high schoolers grow up some before putting countless lives in their hands.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Anonymous said...

I would like to remind everyone that the American economy was doing fine until the Democrat Party took the reigns of control of the Congress in 2006. I hope every one remembers this when they head to the voting booth in November.

Manifesto Joe said...

You obviously haven't been paying attention for the past 30 years. The meltdown we're having didn't come about just in the last 18 months. The seeds were planted long ago. And the "Repub" Party has had more than a slight hand in it, having made economic policy for most of these past 30 years. You are an example of how, sadly, there are always some out there who can't even remember what they had for dinner last night, let alone meaningful political and economic events.

Marc McDonald said...

I'd like to put to rest the ridiculous idea that Reagan "won" the Cold War.
As Bill Maher pointed out, Reagan merely came along in Act Five of the Cold War.
If anyone "won" the Cold War, it was the Japanese. It was their massive funding of our deficit that enabled Reagan's defense build-up.
I can't help but wonder if the Japanese had instead chosen to fund the Soviets' deficits, then the Soviet bloc would've triumphed over the West.
Rather than "winning" the Cold War, what Reagan really did was plant the seeds of America's own demise, with his titanic deficits. In future decades that'll be the only thing historians recall about his presidency.

Anonymous said...

Well Joe........I guess you didn't do so well in math class if you think the FAA should now hire all the fired PATCO controllers back. The mean average of these people would be in their mid sixities and would be required to work well into thier 70's to receive their retirement. Today's air traffic has increased as much as three fold at many airport since 1981. I think you forgot these folks took an oath not to strike against the US government due to national security, and the adverse impact on the country. This kind of smells like either you were a controller or knew someone that has bad feelings because of the reaction of the president to enforce the oath they took. Either way, your notion of hiring these people that haven't seen the inside of a radar room or enjoyed the view from a tower for over 27 years is absurd. I think I'll take my chances with a bright young man or woman that will provide us with continued service for the next 25 plus years, and let the PATCO members bitch about thier raw deal at their next reunion.
One of those SCABS that gladly took the job 25 years ago. Thanks!

Manifesto Joe said...

Howdy, Scab Boy:
Like most right-wingers, you presume far too much. I've actually only flown twice in my entire life, being a deskbound working stiff with little spare time or money for leisure travel. I did, about 25 years ago, know one man who was one of the fired PATCO strikers. He'd be 59 now, and was a bright fellow, so I'd say he could handle the job OK, likely better than a kid whose thoughts are centered on getting laid. Plus, even older PATCO strikers may now need the jobs for a few years. Thanks to Republican-led deregulation and what it ultimately did to the economy, many of them probably can't retire in their 60s. Unless my 401(k) and IRAs turn around a lot over the next 10 years, I probably won't be able to, either. Here's where YOU need to brush up on your math some, Scab Boy. And some macroeconomics while you're at it.

Manifesto Joe said...

Since you haven't shown back up, I'll assume this was just another craven right-wing hit and run. And it comes from somebody who apparently built a life on being an opportunistic scavenger, and seems proud of it.

And, here's today's spelling lesson: "i before e, except after c."