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Friday, February 27, 2009

non compos mentis

A bit off topic.

ver the past two weeks or so, the web has been littered with news stories referencing how the FAA wants to consolidate the CWSU (Center Weather Service Unit) positions at the 21 ARTCCs into one or two facilities. These are the meteorologists stationed at the centers, who's job it is to evaluate 'local' weather conditions and weather hazards in able to pass the information to the air traffic controllers.
Just about every article focuses on the two extremes of the issue. Local weather knowledge, spouted by the controllers and weather specialists and on the FAA side... saving money. Why does this scenario sound familiar....oh yea, the same arguments were given during the raping of the Flight Service option. Unfortunately, due to politics, the FSS folks lost. I venture to guess the same path will be taken with the NWS folks. Some may say there is a different administration in place now, and they will do the right thing. Sadly, with the US being in dire straights economically, NATCA looking to be awarded back-pay, NEXTGEN on the horizon, saving money will be placed above safety one again.

To quote a few experts:


FAA: "We're considering ways to reduce costs while ensuring the FAA air traffic controllers receive appropriate and timely weather reports," said FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said. "This isn't a safety issue. We're just trying to find ways to spend tax dollars more wisely and use the best technology available."

NWS: "The people in Kansas City would be forecasting from the Virgin Islands to the Ohio Valley and out to Honolulu," said Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. "There's no way to have that kind of expertise. They could be dealing with a blizzard and a hurricane at the same time.".....Sobien, who has been a meteorologist for 23 years, said he knows the weather patterns in Tampa, Fla., very well. "But don't ask me what's happening in New Mexico, because a thunderstorm here is completely different from a thunderstorm there," he said

NATCA: "I worry whether or not the meteorologists there, not familiar with the local weather nuances in our airspace, will be able to act on our local behalf to the best advantage of the flying public," said Craig Boehne, a representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association in Minneapolis.

The basic theme repeats again and again:




I could go on but you get the idea.

Most reasonable companies or in this case agencies learn from their mistakes. Most. Unfortunately we are dealing with the FAA here. Most companies would look at past practices, say for instance, the Flight Service Privatization. See that it has been a total disaster and change tactics. Most. One phrase comes to mind....non compos mentis.

Till next time,
From Away

Sunday, February 22, 2009

......the rest of the story....

Hey folks, check out the link(s) to the right. There is some enlightening information there. Sad info also. It appears LM " forgot who they were working for"....


Monday, February 9, 2009

Is the ATC NAS safe from hackers ??

I just read this article that some hackers gained entry into the FAA database of employees. Social Security Numbers were compromised. It will be interesting to see how they follow this up with those affected.


Imagine a bankrolled anti-American group gaining access to the National Airspace System. It could make 9/11 pale in comparison. God Forbid.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

NWS weather Hacks at ARTCCs

In a recent AOPA piece,


AOPA disagrees with the FAAs idea to eliminate the CWSU (Center Weather Service Unit) duties at the nations ARTCCs. Their argument? Local weather pattern familiarity. First, why didn't AOPA use that argument during the A-76 of the nations FSS. There, that argument carried weight and was one of the arguments the FSS specialist raised from day one, and believe it or not, it has been proving itself over and over again since LM started their further consolidation of the FSS system. Now down to about 15 (including the 3 hubs) the local area knowledge is all but gone. Now when you finally get to speak with an actual "specialist", all he/she will do (after reading the handful of disclaimers) is read you your weather. Gone are the subtle briefings, the briefings that actually helped with your flight by including years of observation by specialists familiar with the area and weather anomalies. What happened to AOPAs rigorous oversight? Looks like it went the way of the FAAs oversight. Gone.

So far, I count 3 “reports” due Congress. You see, the FAA was instructed to report to Congress quarterly with a status report on how it’s going with LMs FSS…….hello…..hello.

As to the issue of the CWSU.
I have worked in 2 ARTCCs. I have observed the duties of these folks. At both facilities, they were seriously under-worked. They provided their “shift change” briefing and kept tabs on severe weather throughout the day. 90% waiting around is what I observed. Sure they can look busy, compiling their “package”. As an ex-FSS pilot weather briefer, I could perform the same duties,safely and efficiently. All their data is extracted from NWS data bases and no longer needs to be “created” on site, like in the old days. So if you ask my opinion, I say let them go. There is no reason they need to be IN THE FACILITY. Hey, FSS is working swimmingly, right? Same concept. Have two “hub” facilities where the ARTCC calls in and is put on speaker-phone. That would save tens of thousands of dollars a year, just when we need it.

Better yet, transfer the duties to the Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC) in Herndon, Va. Hire a few lower paid ex-FSS folks and collect your bonus for saving the FAA some serious coinage.

As for AOPA, we all hoped that things would get better when Uncle Phil “WOW” Boyer left, I guess we are still Baraking up the wrong tree.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Clearance Clarance

I have been reading some reliable "closed" newsgroups on the FAA v LM FSS transition. The scale of LM management and FAA oversight incompetence that has evolved is astounding. I assume, in order to save dollars, the inter-facility phone system is partly to blame. There have been some recent exposures of clearance issues.
When non-ATC (LM) calls ATC (FAA) for an aircraft clearance there is a series of events that must occur. LM requests the CL from ATC, ATC either gives it with a void time, states unable or gives it with a hold for release. Sounds pretty simple. ATC 101, sort of. LM then relays the CL to the pilot. LM should get a readback, and the conversation is done. The pilot executes the CL and goes on his/her merry way. Now, add to the mix the possibility (or reality) of more that 2 facilities unknowingly participating in the same CL request. This appears to be happening on more that a few occasions. It can be due to improper phone technique, timing or the equipment itself where not everyone can be heard on the line (simplex v duplex, look it up) . If there is an active request being worked, and a third party joins the line and requests a CL, the possibility of a CL being issued to the wrong AC can and has happened. Add to this the "non-standard" delivery from ATC just confuses the issue. Another trouble area is the phone system itself. ATC has no way of knowing which LM facility is calling them. Sure they identify themselves, but BNA could conceivably be physically located in DCA or FTW, it just depends how the configuration is set at that moment. So if ATC gives a clearance with a HFR (hold for release) eventually LM needs to call back to get the release time. ATC can call back LM, but he's got to know which position is the correct one (add to the mix, they HATE doing that). It gets more FUBAR from here, and frankly, I don't feel like typing all the different scenarios possible, lets just say, its IS happening. Add to the mix yet again, a popular Tower-less airport, where there may be more than 2 AC requesting clearance, and each pilot is talking to a different LM facility, man this is a recipe for a soup sandwich. Can you say operational error, can you say near midair, midair?

LM allows each facility a little poetic license on how they run their operation, this is bad. Ignoring repeated point outs from specialists, the LM (former FAA) management refuses to act on this issue. Pilots are obtaining ATC phone numbers and frequencies in attempt to bypass LM, adding to the ATC workload. Its getting real scary. Stay tuned.

On another note, Alaska AFSS has shown an increase in call volume from pilots. It seems, pilots are calling Alaska for pilot weather briefs, once again avoiding LM. This is reflected in the latest facts and figures from the FAAs fact book. LM FSS calls are down 50% for this same timeframe when they were FAA. I don't blame them a bit. Its been 21/2 years, and LM is still trying to find the right software system to do the work. The FAA has also requested bids to sustain DUATs for another 5 years. Guess they have lost a bit of confidence in LM. NOTAMs, well FUBAR.

Bottom line, LM bit off way more than they can chew on this one. It isn't as simple as building a fully functional F22


or an operational satellite

Well, you get the picture.......

Friday, January 11, 2008


Just a brief update and observation.

If you visit the LM web page:


you'll notice that Mr. Courains' updates are far and few between. It appears that the only time he 'communicates' to his sheep is when there is some action or public exposure on the services (or lack of) relating to LM Flight Services. Interesting, since the major issue touted in his anti-union platform is that LM doesn't need a third party to aid in the communication with the workforce. I beg to differ, everyone I speak with, and that word is chosen carefully, complains about the lack of communication by LM management and the willingness to accept input from the WORKERS.

On another issue, it appears that most of the original FS21 equipment package (or bill of goods, as I like to call it) that LM sold the FAA is vastly different now from the "WOW" equipment that Uncle Phil Boyer was privy to. Day by day, it continues to morph into the MEO bid. Looks like FS21FC is right around the corner.

Vote Yes, have a voice, have some pride, have some clout. Good Luck.

To view what a Union can do for you....