Say Blakey Blamed Them For Capstone Woes
They've had enough...
and they each want a personal apology. That's the message air
traffic controllers at Anchorage Center (ZAN) have for FAA
Administrator Marion Blakey, over what they perceive as slander
against their professionalism and work conduct.
At issue are comments Blakey made during the recent Capstone
crisis in Alaska, in which controllers say the administrator blamed
controllers in Anchorage for misapplying aircraft separation
The Anchorage Daily News reports National Air Traffic
Controllers Association regional VP Rick Thompson sent a letter
this month to Blakey, asking that she apologize to every air
traffic controller in Anchorage for "publicly tarnishing their
professionalism and integrity."
As Aero-News reported
extensively, automatic dependant
surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) capabilities were removed from
controllers' screens on March 24, due to what Blakey called the
Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center's inability to conform
to FAA standards.
"This action was taken as a result of a confirmed report that an
improper separation standard was being applied by ZAN
(Anchorage Center -- Ed.) between ADS-B surveilled
aircraft and radar surveilled aircraft," Blakey wrote to Skip
Nelson, chairman of the Alaska Aviation Coordination Council.
This week, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said Blakey had no
intention of offending the controllers. "We respect and value the
employees," she said. "This is about ensuring the highest level of
After several back-and-forth debates between the FAA and Alaskan
controllers, Capstone returned to ATC
screens, in a limited fashion, on June 15. The
FAA also announced plans to expand the Capstone program to other
parts of Southwest Alaska.
That isn't good enough, however, say controllers -- they want
Blakey to apologize.
"The FAA actions appear to be designed to intentionally
misinform the flying public about the use of ADS-B for air traffic
control purposes in Alaska," Thompson said. The system in its
current form is flawed, he added, and to blame its shortcomings on
controllers is "irrational and completely disrespectful."
The FAA's Brown stated it is safe to assume controller's
consternation over ADS-B are due, at least in part, to recent
contract negotiations between the FAA and NATCA -- as relations
between the two parties are currently strained, at best,
As it stands, Blakey is scheduled to attend a July 5 meeting in
Anchorage, when Senator Ted Stevens chairs a field hearing of the
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Controllers
will likely be in the audience, listening intently.