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NATCA Air Traffic Controllers Keep Skies Above Chicago Safe, Efficient Following Friday Fire

Airplane over Chigago O'Hare (FLIKR CC 2.0 ChicagoKoz)

Airplane over Chigago O’Hare (FLIKR CC 2.0 ChicagoKoz)

WASHINGTON – Following a fire last Friday that closed the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZAU) in Aurora, Ill., hundreds of air traffic controllers at more than a dozen key facilities are continuing to safely move as much air traffic flow into, out of and around the Chicago area as possible.

This work will continue into the coming week as the Federal Aviation Administration develops a plan to repair critical communications infrastructure that was destroyed in the fire.

“This is one of the most challenging situations that air traffic controllers and other FAA employees have faced since 9/11,” NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said. “The damage to this critical facility is unlike anything we have seen before. Since the first moment when radar scopes went dark at Chicago Center Friday morning, controllers have ensured the highest level of safety at all times. We know this has been a tremendous disruption to the travel plans of many people. We are working diligently to re-establish as close to normal operations as possible to minimize the inconvenience to travelers while keeping safety above everything else.”

There are four en route centers that border the ZAU airspace; Cleveland Center (ZOB), Indianapolis Center (ZID), Kansas City Center (ZKC), and Minneapolis Center (ZMP). Each of these facilities has helped assume the ZAU airspace responsibilities, and worked very well with Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities in Chicago, Milwaukee, Fort Wayne, South Bend, and elsewhere (see full list in final paragraph), as well as with many control towers, including both O’Hare and Midway Airports in Chicago.

“We have seen a plan of action established by the adjacent centers and other key facilities that is evolving and improving by the hour, and providing safe service that is increasing in efficiency,” NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert said. “Air traffic controllers are trained to expect the unexpected and make a new plan work safely. The level of resourcefulness and ingenuity that has been demonstrated over the past three days is truly astounding. Controllers and other FAA safety professionals will continue to implement outside-the-box thinking to get the system functioning well while Chicago Center repairs are made.”

As of Sunday afternoon, arrival traffic into O’Hare and Midway is being fed to Chicago TRACON (C90) directly from ZMP and ZKC. Arrivals into Chicago airports from ZOB and ZID are being descended down first into South Bend TRACON, then into C90. Departure traffic from O’Hare and Midway continue to be worked directly from C90 to ZKC, ZID, and ZOB, while traffic to the north continues to depart the tower en route through Milwaukee TRACON.


Updates below:

ORD: The arrival rate has been increased to 72 per hour. Departure restrictions are still in place in all directions. Manual handoffs with other control facilities are still in place in the absence of a fully functioning automated flight plan system. We are seeing departure delays of up to 15 minutes. That could increase to 30 by later today.

C90: An already short-staffed facility is utilizing ZAU controllers to help with increased coordination to different centers. That is ensuring that the operation is as efficient as possible. “We continue to work hard, and I am so proud of the controllers’ professionalism and work ethic,” NATCA Facility Representative James Hall said. “We are C90 – we will always figure out a way to move the airplanes. I anticipate increasing our efficiencies with continued out-of-the-box thinking. That is, of course, with continued ZAU controller support, and staffing to hold.”

ZAU: This is the first time since 1963 that ZAU air traffic controllers have not worked the airspace. “The controllers at Chicago Center are currently providing as much assistance to other facilities as possible,” NATCA Facility Representative Toby Hauck said. “I have attempted to put into words what we have been through and it is impossible to describe. I thank all those facilities and controllers who have stepped up.”

ZID: “So far, the arrival process seems to be going well,” NATCA Facility Representative Jim Larson said. “We have had to make manual handoffs to the approach controls on all of the arrivals, but our controllers have done a good job of dealing with the increased traffic and complexity.” ZID’s radar and radio coverage has been exceptional, and is allowing them to radar identify the aircraft while they are still within Chicago TRACON airspace, but until the problem with the automated flight plan data is solved, it remains a tedious operation. Extra staffing has been called in to assist with the new procedures and airspace in both areas. This will most likely continue for the duration of the ZAU outage.

ZKC: ZKC has set up a new sector that is working a chunk of Chicago Center’s (ZAU) airspace to allow for O’Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW) arrivals and departures to be worked. They have a plan in place in which they own 16,000 feet and above from Joliet (JOT), which is just in Chicago TRACON’s (C90) airspace, west to Des Moines (DSM) and south to Centralia, Ill. (ENL). They have radar and frequency coverage, so ZKC is working directly with C90 to accomplish handoffs and transfer of flight plans.

Additional personnel is helping the areas adjacent to ZAU¹s boundary with the extra position being opened and transferring of flight plan information. “We also have a dedicated phone brought in that is dialed into C90, acting as a direct line for the ease of passing flight plans to and from C90,” NATCA Facility Representative Aaron Merrick said. “Once we got our plan implemented Friday, things began to move smoother than they were after the initial phase of the situation.”

ZMP: They are doing a very similar operation as ZKC. They have created a sector that works what is called the “Bullz” arrival and two departure routes – one west and one north – as well as the tower operations en route from Milwaukee and Green Bay. “We have extra staffing in the facility to help with the situation,” NATCA Facility Representative Mike Thompson said. “There are many great people doing many great things with very little to work with.”

ZOB: As of noon on Sunday, ZOB was receiving about 85 percent of ORD departure flight plan information. However, everything is still manual coordination whether they have the flight plan info or not.

ZOB’s airspace plan is also very similar to ZKC. The facility has basically extended their western boundary 60 miles further to the West, almost to C90’s eastern boundary. With the extra airspace they’ve attained from ZAU, they were able to create two new departure sectors. These sectors handle all east, northeast and southeastern departures.

“The affected areas of the facility handling the additional sectors are all requiring extra staffing to handle the extra workload and complexity,” NATCA Facility Representative Drew MacQueen said. “We expect this to continue as work to increase traffic levels out of ZAU continues to mount.”

TRACONS IN ZAU AIRSPACE: Controllers working radar positions at the TRACONS in Cedar Rapids, Champaign, Des Moines, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Milwaukee, Moline, Muskegon, Peoria, Rockford, South Bend, Springfield, Waterloo, and also Grissom Air Reserve Base in Kokomo, Ind., have played a crucial role in the effort to get traffic moving as a temporary solution while ZAU is down. In the case of traffic flowing into and out of Chicago airports, they are providing a conduit between the adjacent centers and Chicago TRACON. “These employees are working a staggering amount of traffic, using new procedures and methods being altered almost constantly, and ensuring safety in very difficult and pressure-filled situations,” Gilbert said. “It’s a great team effort in progress.”

 

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association: Collaboration Resulting in NextGen Success, Funding Uncertainty Creates Challenges

NATCA LOGOWASHINGTON – National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi told the Senate Aviation Subcommittee today that the successful implementation of NextGen modernization, which NATCA fully supports, is underway. He said the progress has been fueled by strong and effective collaboration involving NATCA, the FAA, and other aviation stakeholders. The results, he added, are “much-needed improvements that will increase the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System (NAS).”

Rinaldi also expressed NATCA’s concern that the progress could be undermined by the lack of stable funding for these important modernization projects. In the past year, mandatory sequestration cuts resulted in furloughs at the FAA that slowed or halted several essential NextGen projects.

“Funding uncertainty has also created a stop-and-go pace that adds cost overruns as air traffic controllers must be retrained each time a project is halted – lost time becomes lost money, and lost opportunity to reap the benefits of these modernizations,” he said.

Rinaldi’s full written testimony for the Subcommittee’s hearing, “NextGen: A Review of Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities for Improving Aviation Safety and Efficiency,” is located here

NextGen modernization will allow the FAA to meet increased capacity demand while improving the safety and efficiency of the NAS, reducing delays, and protecting the environment. NextGen projects are transforming the NAS by using new and existing technologies including satellite navigation, advanced digital communications, and enhanced connectivity between all components of the NAS.

“NATCA is proud to be involved in all aspects of the process as an essential stakeholder,” Rinaldi testified. “NATCA and the FAA both recognize that stakeholder involvement is the key to continued success to NextGen. We applaud the Committee for their efforts to ensure this collaboration through the stakeholder involvement provision in the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act. In addition to being present on NextGen projects, NATCA is represented as a member of the RTCA, the FAA Management Advisory Council (MAC), and the NextGen Advisory Committee. Our presence, as well as that of other industry leaders, has been an important addition to the discussion on modernization.”

Other highlights of NATCA’s testimony, which provided several examples of how NextGen projects are already benefiting the NAS, include:

Houston – Optimization of Airspace & Procedures in the Metroplex (OAPM): OAPM study teams rely on current aircraft navigation capabilities to enhance airport arrival and departure paths, provide diverging departure paths to get aircraft off the ground more quickly, and add more direct, high-altitude Area Navigation (RNAV) navigation routes between metroplexes. These changes reduce fuel consumption, providing economic benefits for airlines as well as benefits for the environment.

Gulf of Mexico – Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B): ADS-B, one of the cornerstone components of NextGen, is a form of surveillance that will replace traditional radar as the primary surveillance method in the NAS. ADS-B involves the broadcast of the GPS-derived position report of an aircraft or vehicle. As this technology continues to evolve and aircraft equip with ADS-B Avionics, controllers will see an increase in surveillance coverage not provided by traditional radar sources. At this time, the FAA has completed the physical infrastructure of the ADS-B network. Additionally, they have successfully integrated ADS-B data into existing ATC automation systems, meaning that air traffic controllers can see the new ADS-B information.

Colorado – Wide Area Multilateration (WAM): WAM is an independent, cooperative surveillance technology based on the same time difference of arrival principles that are used on an airport surface. Several ground-based receiving stations listen to signals transmitted from an aircraft and then mathematically calculate its position in three dimensions. This data is transmitted to screens viewed by air traffic controllers for separation of aircraft. WAM can interface to terminal or en-route automation systems.

Phoenix – Performance Based Navigation (PBN): The development and implementation of PBN will create more defined routing for aircraft, which ultimately increases the number of aircraft that controllers can direct. These new procedures will improve the fuel efficiency for the airlines and create safer and more efficient procedures for air traffic.

Memphis – Re-Categorization of Separation Standards (RECAT): Experts in wake turbulence, safety, and risk analysis have determined that decreasing separation between similar type aircraft is as safe, or safer than, current standards and increases efficiency and capacity, meaning that like other NextGen projects, RECAT has the capacity to enhance safety, reduce delays, save fuel, and reduce aviation’s environmental impact.

Newark –Data Communications (DataComm): DataComm will reduce frequency congestion by allowing the controller and pilot to communicate directly via digital communication (much like a text message). It will also reduce confusion because the message will be in print form and not copied over the frequency. A majority of these messages will be integrated into the flight deck avionics to help save time and remove issues of incorrect data entry.

n  Atlanta –Equivalent Lateral Spacing Operations (ELSO): ELSO is a procedure that enables the world’s busiest airport to depart aircraft on diverging courses much closer than in the past. ELSO, developed by the Mitre Corporation in 2011, added two departure routes at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) due to an updated separation standard. The introduction of ELSO at ATL enables simultaneous and successive diverging departure operations by creating two departure tracks for each runway end during normal runway operations.

Transportation Trade Department (AFL-CIO) President Wytkind Speaks On Jobs And Infrastructure

Remarks by Edward Wytkind
President, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

Delivered at Rally for Jobs and Infrastructure during Infrastructure Week

EdwardWytkindThanks Jos [Williams] for that introduction and for the work you do to mobilize this area’s labor movement behind job creation policies like the ones we are pushing today.

Good afternoon! Thanks for being here to join us in this fight to end the decades-long neglect of our transportation system and infrastructure, a neglect so pervasive that it threatens our economic future.

I’m pleased to join my labor movement colleagues and of course the Transportation Secretary.

I want to commend the President, the Vice President and the Secretary for the job they are doing to advance a vision that says America can and must do better in modernizing our transportation system.  The Administration’s aggressive call for a big and bold plan is exactly what is needed today as we see a lack of leadership and courage in this town.

Let’s be clear.  Our nation’s lifeblood is our public transit and rail systems, our airports and air traffic control system, our highways and bridges, and our ports and maritime systems.

This diverse and powerful network of massive transportation infrastructure and, I might add, the world’s finest transportation workforce, was once the envy of the world.  It is what our grandparents and parents handed off to us so that America had the transportation network it needed to compete and win in the global economy.

But we all know it: we haven’t kept up our end of the bargain. Our current investment gap is threatening to crater our economy, idle millions of good jobs, and harm our competitiveness.

A few facts.

More than 14 million Americans – 1 in 10 workers – operate, build and maintain our transportation system.  These are the types of jobs Americans need if we want to reduce the jobless rate and reverse the crisis of stagnant wages that so many are facing.

The Highway Trust Fund goes broke this summer and WE MUST not let that happen.  But this is really part of a larger problem – this generation is failing to make the investments needed to secure a new era of economic expansion, innovation and job growth.

Bus and rail transit systems, the lifeline for millions of workers and businesses, are seeing healthy demand for their services but more than 3 out of 4 face service and jobs cuts and fare hikes that many workers can’t afford.

Amtrak is using decades-old equipment and being denied the resources it needs to modernize during a time when it has broken its ridership records 10 of the last 11 years.  And like so many issues in this town, high speed rail funding has become a political football for lawmakers who clearly don’t get it.

1950s era technology and a highly skilled FAA workforce may be holding our air traffic control system together, but a broken funding system is slowing modernization and starving airports as we face a projected boom in air travel.

Highways are falling apart and doomed to endless gridlock, and tens of thousands of bridges need to be fixed or replaced, with some literally falling down.

Seaports are being left behind as global commerce brings us mega-sized vessels that threaten to overwhelm our resource-starved ports.

Our freight sector is expected to provide the network needed to execute an ambitious export agenda yet it endures intolerable bottlenecks and unreliable infrastructure.

For decades transportation manufacturing became moribund because we stopped investing and when we did invest in new trains and buses or bridges, we failed to maximize manufacturing job creation right here in America.

And at a time when millions of Americans remain unemployed we’re threatening to become the lost generation that failed to put people to work in middle class jobs building, operating and maintaining a modernized transportation system worthy of this century.

These are the symbols of a nation that is failing its businesses, its communities and its people.

We need a bold commitment to investment, must leverage cutting edge technology and must champion not a one or two year stopgap plan, but a 50 year vision.

It won’t be easy but it means not taking “no” for an answer… not taking half steps… and getting beyond flat-line funding levels and short-term legislative fixes that Washington keeps delivering.

There’s an election this year. And I believe the issue of expanding and modernizing our transportation system must be on the ballot.  Those that stand in the way of progress must be forced to explain why they’re against shorter commutes and goods shipments, faster and safer air travel, modern transit and rail systems, and modern ports that can fuel our exports.

We must return to the days when America built things and made lasting investments that defined our future.

Our transportation unions have a powerful jobs agenda for America. And we’re going to fight for it with everything we’ve got.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association Celebrates “100 Years Of Commercial Aviation” (VIDEO)

“One day the skies will be crisscrossed with airlines carrying freight and passengers!

Thomas Wesley Benoist, 1914
Constructed the first commercial aircraft. 

 

 

NATCA — “We Guide You Home” 

24 hours a day, 365 days a year members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association are working to make sure that your flight gets home safe and sound.

NATCA presented this short video at their annual safety convention, Communication for Safety, where 1400 people from the aviation industry came together to talk about ways to make our worldwide air traffic system even better.

Click here to read our previous post about CFS and the Archie League Medal of Safety Awards.

If you are one of the 743.1 Million passengers who fly every year then take a moment to say “Thank You” to the men and women who “Guide You Home.”

If you are an aviation enthusiast then be sure to ‘LIKE’ NATCA on Facebook!

Transportation Trade Unions Call For A Rejection Of Norwegian Air’s Air Carrier Permit

Transportation Trade Unions Call on U.S. DOT to Reject Norwegian Air International’s Application for Foreign Air Carrier Permit

Letter is broadest call yet to rebuff NAI’s style of business

Image from Sirus1278  CC Flikr

Image from Sirus1278
CC Flikr

Washington, DC – Twenty-two unions with the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO weighed in on an ongoing and escalating debate about the future of international air travel today. The unions called on U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to reject Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) application for a foreign air carrier permit now pending before the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  The union signatories represent teachers, electricians, construction workers, public sector workers, and a broad swath of the private and public sector transportation workforce.

“As the representatives of unions that represent workers in several sectors of our economy we have seen first-hand the effects of un-checked globalization on the American workforce,” says the letter.  “We cannot allow a similar fate to befall the U.S. aviation industry and lose a creator of middle-class jobs and a pillar of our inter-connected transportation system.”

The letter notes that TTD and its aviation unions have argued extensively that NAI’s application is contrary to the United States’ international obligations and laws, and would allow NAI to gain an unfair advantage over U.S. carriers and their employees.

The letter continues:

We add our voice to this debate for several reasons.  We believe that if the U.S. DOT approves this flag of convenience scheme, it will set a precedent for other foreign air carriers to exploit and follow.  NAI is promoting a business model that has become all too familiar to the U.S. labor movement: undercut the competition by scouring the globe for cheap labor, diminished collective bargaining rights and weak regulations.  The airline has registered in Ireland, even though it will not service Irish airports, and has chosen this path to avoid Norway’s labor and tax laws.  It will contract – or more accurately “rent” – much of its flight crew from Thailand using a recruitment firm based in Singapore.  In doing so, NAI will be able to undercut U.S. airlines and their employees by as much as 50 percent.

Read the full letter below or view the signed PDF version here

The Honorable Anthony Foxx
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue. S.E.
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Foxx:

On behalf of the undersigned affiliated unions of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) we urge you to reject Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) application for a foreign air carrier permit that is now pending before the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). TTD and its aviation unions have already submitted extensive arguments on why NAI’s application is contrary to our nation’s international obligations, inconsistent with U.S. law, and would allow NAI to gain an unfair advantage over U.S. carriers and their employees.

We add our voice to this debate for several reasons. We believe that if the U.S. DOT approves this flag of convenience scheme, it will set a precedent for other foreign air carriers to exploit and follow. NAI is promoting a business model that has become all too familiar to the U.S. labor movement: undercut the competition by scouring the globe for cheap labor, diminished collective bargaining rights and weak regulations. The airline has registered in Ireland, even though it will not service Irish airports, and has chosen this path to avoid Norway’s labor and tax laws. It will contract – or more accurately “rent” – much of its flight crew from Thailand using a recruitment firm based in Singapore. In doing so, NAI will be able to undercut U.S. airlines and their employees by as much as 50 percent.

Finally, as TTD and its aviation affiliates have demonstrated, the NAI scheme would violate the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement which expressly bars this sort of business model through adoption of a labor article – embodied in Article 17 bis of the agreement – that embraces “high labor standards.” We urge you to uphold the spirit and intent of this important labor provision when implementing the Open Skies Agreement, and reject NAI’s application.

As the representatives of unions that represent workers in several sectors of our economy we have seen first-hand the effects of un-checked globalization on the American workforce. Too often, poorly conceived and badly enforced free trade agreements have led to the offshoring of U.S. jobs. That is why U.S. industries that previously formed the backbone of our economy have seen dramatic job losses that have coincided with the erosion of the middle class. We cannot allow a similar fate to befall the U.S. aviation industry and lose a creator of middle-class jobs and a pillar of our inter-connected transportation system.

We stand unified with U.S. and European airline unions in steadfastly opposing the NAI application. Thank you for your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, SEIU (NCFO,SEIU)
International Organization of Masters,
Mates & Pilots, ILA (MM&P)
Transportation Communications Union/ IAM (TCU)
Sailors’ Union of the Pacific (SUP)
UNITE HERE!
American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA)
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS)
National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA)
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM)
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA)
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers (IBB)
Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS)
Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA)
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART)
American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)
Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU)
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
SMART – Transportation Division
Communications Workers of America (CWA)

Armed TSA Transportation Security Law Enforcement Personnel Will Make Airports Safer

Image from eyeliam -- Jason Lander

Image from eyeliam
– Jason Lander

WASHINGTON, DC – Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued the following statement in support of the aviation safety and security reforms advanced today by J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), at a field hearing held by the House Homeland Security Committee in Los Angeles, CA.

Transportation Trade Department Logo“We join AFGE today in calling for the creation of Transportation Security Law Enforcement positions that will be charged with enhancing security at airport checkpoints throughout the country.  This proposal is a common sense response to the tragic shooting and killing of a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) last November at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).  That tragedy was a stark reminder that the nation’s 45,000 TSOs – on the frontlines of keeping our skies and airports safe – still face too much exposure to dangers and violence in and around security checkpoints.

“While we commend the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for its call for increased armed presence at airport security check points and in other sensitive areas of the terminals, we urge TSA Administrator Pistole to support staffing armed TSA Transportation Security Law Enforcement officer positions as a logical next step in fortifying security checkpoints.  This approach is a win-win: it will keep TSOs safer while also enhancing passenger safety and security.

“It only makes sense to keep the safety of these security check points within the jurisdiction of TSA – it will give the agency an important tool to better protect TSOs and the flying public and will free up law enforcement resources for deployment in other parts of airport terminals.

“I also join AFGE’s call today for Congress to pass H.R. 4026, the Honor our Fallen TSA Officers Act, which was recently introduced by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA).  This bill would grant TSOs the public safety officer status they deserve and make families of TSOs who die in the line of duty eligible for federal death benefits, including the family of the TSO who was killed  in the LAX shooting.”

TTD Urges Administration to Deliver Strong Message to EC: Keep Aviation and Maritime Out of TTIP

Transportation Trade Department Logo

WASHINGTON, DC—Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues the following statement in response to news accounts of leaked European Commission (EC) proposals to include aviation and maritime services in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal currently under negotiation:

“Recent press reports of ‘leaked’ documents confirm what we’ve known for some time: the European Commission (EC) continues to advance a trade agenda that would undermine U.S. airline and maritime jobs and our national and economic security. The Europeans have been pushing a reform agenda through attempts—in defiance of longstanding U.S. trade policy—to include aviation and maritime in U.S.-EU talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. Specifically, the EC seeks to weaken or eliminate our laws limiting foreign ownership and control of U.S. air carriers and to hollow out Jones Act protections at the expense of U.S. Merchant Marine jobs.

“Air and maritime services have historically been excluded from broad free trade agreements and for good reason: both sectors serve strategic economic and national security purposes for the nation. While America’s long-term economic interests are intrinsically linked to a robust U.S. aviation and maritime sector, the EC would have us hand over the keys to these vital industries. The Obama Administration must reject these efforts.

“Fortunately, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman last July removed maritime from TTIP talks by declaring that ‘The Administration has continuously ensured that application of the Jones Act is permitted under each of our trade agreements’ and that it ‘will continue to take this position.’ We urge the Administration to reaffirm those views and to declare that aviation will not be a subject of TTIP negotiations. Instead, aviation trade negotiations should continue to be handled through bilateral negotiations under the auspices of the Department of State and Department of Transportation.

“These leaked documents demonstrate the EC’s resolve to pursue reforms in U.S. transportation policy that have been roundly rejected by the President and by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. In fact, 158 members of the House have already written Ambassador Froman in opposition to including aviation in TTIP talks.

“Aviation and maritime have no place at the TTIP negotiating table. We urge the Obama Administration to deliver this message unambiguously to its European counterparts.”

Workers ask “Is Allegiant’s Proposed Expansion at Punta Gorda a Trick or a Treat?”

Discount carrier has track record of cancelling routes and abandoning entire communities

PUNTA GORDA, FL – Members of the Transport Workers Union, representing more than 600 flight attendants at Allegiant Air, will leaflet passengers at the Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, Florida on Halloween – Thursday, October 31stfrom 9 am to 1 pm.

Responding  to reports that Allegiant frequently abandons routes and cancels service, union members will ask if Allegiant’s proposed expansion of service to and from Punta Gorda is “A trick or a treat?”

Who:   Members of TWU Local 577
What: Informational Leafleting, informing passengers of reports that Allegiant has cancelled routes and abandoned service in many communities.
Where: Charlotte County Airport
                2800 Airport Road, Punta Gorda, FL 33982
When:  TODAY – Thursday, October 31, 9 am to 1 pm (Eastern Time)

Allegiant, a discount carrier, claims low fares but has been reported to add fees which can double the price of a ticket. The airline recently announced new flights from Punta Gorda to communities in Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

“We’re always glad to see our company add new service,” said Debra Petersen-Barber, an Allegiant flight attendant who is lead negotiator for TWU Local 577. “We’re convinced that success for our company depends on mutually-beneficial long-term relationships with employees, passengers and communities.”

To accommodate the proposed increased flights, Charlotte County Airport is undergoing a $7 million expansion. Ninety percent of the funding is expected to come from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a report in the Charlotte (FL) Weekly, with the remainder provided by the state of Florida and the airport authority.

“It’s always a treat to see announcements for new routes and new service,” said TWU International Vice President Thom McDaniel. “But the trick is that Allegiant has claimed it’s a ‘badge of honor’ when they abruptly cancel a route or completely abandon service to a community,” he added, referring to comments made by a senior company official during a June 5, 2013 interview on Fox Business News.

“With millions of dollars in public money at stake, the public has a right to know about this company’s track record,” said McDaniel.

An ‘UnRoute Map’ on a TWU website, WillAllegiantBeThere.org, shows a dozen communities where Allegiant has completely abandoned service, and 23 routes that have been cancelled by the airline.

Allegiant has been reported to add fees for items like using a credit card when buying a ticket.  Passengers have enduredreported mechanical failures and other events that have caused inconvenience, emergency landings and delays of up to 52 hours.

The leafleting at the Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda is not a work stoppage, nor a request for any individual or group to take action.

A majority of flight attendants at Allegiant voted in favor of TWU representation in December 2010.  Union representatives began negotiations with company officials in June of 2011.  More than two years later, Allegiant has yet to reach a first contract agreement with flight attendants.

The Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) represents 200,000 workers and retirees in commercial aviation, public transportation and passenger railroads, including 11,000 flight attendants. The union is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Unions Prevail In Fight To Keep ‘Knives Off Planes’

One of the biggest reasons workers join unions is to improve the safety of their working conditions.  In some cases, the union stands up to oppose changes that would reduce the already safe conditions of their workers.  This was the case after the Department of Homeland Security changed their policy to allow knives on commercial flights.

This policy change brought outrage from many of the organizations who represent workers in the aviation industry.

On May 6, The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) was one of nine organizations representing over 400,000 aviation professionals, passengers and law enforcement officers that filed a legal petition with Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, urging them to rescind the policy change and keep the knife ban in place.

“I commend Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Pistole for listening to our concerns and having the wisdom to withdraw this proposal in light of the grave safety and security risks to our members at TSA, to the flying public and aviation employees,” Cox said.

After today’s announcement to rescind the policy  the Transportation Worker Union President James C. Little released this statement:

Three months ago, on March 5, and every day since, our union and others concerned about passenger safety urged that a policy shift that would allow sticks, knives and clubs on planes be reversed.  The leadership of TSA listened and they should be commended for taking the advice of flight attendants and other workers at commercial airlines charged with passenger safety.

This is a very important issue to The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) who is the exclusive representative for the more than 45,000 Transportation Security Officers. TSO’s screen all commercial airline passengers, baggage and cargo.

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. released this statement after today’s announcement:

“This decision is the right one for the safety and security of every Transportation Security Officer, airline passenger and aviation employee.”

“In addition to the lessons learned on 9/11 about the threat of terrorists armed with knives, our concern is for our members who are assaulted far too often by irate passengers. Keeping the knife ban will help keep those confrontations from escalating,” Cox said.  

 

What Do You Mean My Flight Is Canceled Due To SEQUESTRATION???

The newsrooms are a buzz with the information that was just released from the Federal Aviation Administration on the potential impacts of the Sequestration.   Sequestration is the name given to the draconian cuts that are going to rip apart the government and our economy at the same time.

Today Department of Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, released a letter to the aviation community highlighting the impacts.

1.  Furloughs of 11-22 days between April and Oct 1st for all 47,000 FAA Employees.

2. Eliminate midshifts at 60 towers across the country

3. Close over 100 air traffic control towers (link to potential closure list)

4. Reduce preventative maintenance and equipment provisioning and support for all National Airspace System equipment.

These impacts will create massive delays for air travelers, and any business that relies on aviation to move their people or product.  Aviation contributes $1.3 Trillion to the national economy.  With over 70,000 operations every single day and 130 million operations annually, the FAA oversees all of them.

Sec. Lahood also points out that flights to the major airports,  JFK, IAD, SFO, LAX could see delays of 90 minutes or more durning peak times.   Those delays will only create more waves throughout the system as gridlock sets in.

The President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Paul Rinaldi, had this to say after hearing the news.

“Today’s announcement from the FAA unfortunately confirms the concerns we have been warning about for months – sequestration will significantly and perhaps permanently undermine the capacity of the National Airspace System. The fact that they will not just be furloughing critical FAA personnel but closing air traffic control towers means the system will be even more compromised than anticipated. We share the FAA’s commitment to preserving the safety of the system despite these draconian cuts. Safety is always the top priority of air traffic controllers, but the reality is this – safety will be preserved at the expense of operations across the country. Once towers are closed, the airports they serve may be next. Additionally, we believe the delay estimates provided by the FAA are conservative and the potential for disruptions could be much higher.

“Every one of these actions by the FAA will have an impact far beyond inconveniencing travelers. Local economies will be diminished, military exercises will be cancelled and jobs will be lost. There’s no telling how long these effects will be felt because many of these service reductions may not be reversed. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association continues to urge the nation’s policy-makers to find a solution that prevents or mitigates the impact of sequestration in a way that does not diminish the world’s safest and most efficient national airspace system.”

These 47,000 FAA Employees are real people.  They have families, children, and mortgages.   Like many Americans, they probably cannot afford to be forced out of work for an entire month without pay.  Yet this is what Congress is forcing them to do.

We must take action now to stop these draconian cuts from every happening.   Call your elected Representative and tell them to stop this now!  Call your Senator.  Call the White House.  Tell them all that these cuts are hurting hard working families throughout the country.  Tell them how these cuts are going to directly effect you.

Congress created these Sequestration cuts and they can take them away.  It is time to stop playing chicken with our economy and the lives of millions of federal employees and their families.  End the sequestration now, while you still can!

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