I was prompted to write a short ATC biography at a sort of reunion site for disenfranchised air traffic controllers. This is the best I could do. It's written in the shorthand that all controllers will understand. I don't intend to convert to a translated version—if you don't understand this version, it probably isn't going to be that interesting to you in the first place, but send me a note if you seriously want to know. My Aviation Biography has the public version of my ATC history, although it's a glancing blow. This is for the hard core.
I started in ZJX in April of '68, at the vanguard of the hiring boom of the late '60s-early '70s. I was fully certified in a little over two years and caught all the promotion waivers, including a facility upgrade. I went from GS-6 (off the street) to GS-13 in 2 years, 10 months. I'm also one of the very few (I'm sure) who never spent as much as a minute in OKC—never been there. I put in just short of five years at ZJX, then got a transfer to ORD in February, '73.
ORD was an awkward fit for a full-of-juice FPL with mostly high altitude enroute experience. Although I learned tons of ATC (which I was able to apply later when I worked in a terminal area in the center), it didn't take then and I transferred out to nearby ZAU in August, '73.
I was at ZAU from then until August, '81—first in high altitude for about three years, and then in West Terminal. I am one of a handful (a few hundred) of brothers (and sisters—implicit with every citation of “brothers”) from around the country who actually worked on August 3rd—on the mid shift. However, I walked out the door that morning to quite the crowd.
As planned, all of us filed appeals of our firing, and I was active with the Local (I'd been active for years, including serving on the Board of Local 301) representing brothers with their paperwork and initial hearings. I even had a five second spot on national television in my three piece law suit (I think it was ABC—I no longer have the suit and couldn't fit in it if I did—could barely fit in it then). I worked with the Local at various locations until the Fall when most local operations folded their tents.
I was on the street until May of '83 when I prevailed (along with about 40 other ZAU brothers) over management incompetence and was fully restored (sadly not all 40 were fully restored—some got minimal back pay—some didn't get any at all). It was the luckiest day of my life (although fully restored doesn't really mean that—think IRS), and I've felt guilty about it ever since. I was able to return to my job and managed to make it until December of '97. By the way, there was another facility upgrade in 1978 to my final grade of GS-14, although I was a GS-15 for a short time in the early '90s when I had a temporary detail as a supervisor.
Some of it's just the dinosaur in me, but the late '70s were the Golden Age of ATC so far as I'm concerned. Sure, we had loads of management problems—I never could understand those who couldn't connect the dots between us getting 13,000+ people out the door and the necessity of the formation of a new (pseudo) union within four years afterwards. But the operation was great and most of the people could work rings around most of the post '81 folks.
Although I worked with some talented people post '81 who would have done fine in the world all of us pre '81 folks knew, there were many, many sad cases of diluted screening (and former washouts) hired on in the years afterward. I was particularly appalled at some of the people dragged out of the woodwork who were still there when I got back. The FFA truly held the system together with chewing gum and mirrors.
I've told many and will continue to tell them that it was the new people who drove me out. It's not unique to our trade—I've talked with many from many professions who say the same thing—the new breed is less concerned about being professional in their jobs than any of the folks we knew. Their focus seems to be to see how much of their job they can get you to do.
And no one has any respect for seniority. We had finally, in the mid '90s, gotten to bid schedules based on seniority, but the (pseudo) union controlled the schedule choices and the #1 senior guy in the area (me) did not even have a straight day shift, M-F schedule to bid on. I could have gotten straight swings, but not straight days. It was a matter of “if one of the younger guys (working on the schedule) can't have it, then no one (read me) can have it.”
I am appalled at what the FFA has done since 2006. I couldn't see that coming from what was the tenor of the times in '97, although I suppose I should have. The (pseudo) union must have really stepped in it to have let that happen, although the union busting, anti-labor shrubs in charge (such as hatchet woman Marion Blakey who wasn't appointed until after I left) probably couldn't have been deterred. The one thing the FFA did consistently during my 30 years was make horrendously poor choices in the majority of their management selections. The results of that shortfall has obviously crept upwards. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
P.S. Yes, I know how to spell FFA. I loved the job—I hated the employer.
Last updated: 19 August 2009