Agency Claims Scott Pressley Violated Visitation Rules
Was it proper discipline, or sour
grapes? That is the question posed by a Birmingham, AL reporter,
regarding the two-week suspension of an air traffic controller by
Birmingham News columnist John Archibald maintains Scott
Pressley, the local representative for the Birmingham branch of the
National Air Traffic Controllers Association, got a raw deal.
Pressley was recently suspended from duty for two weeks, reportedly
due to a series of procedures violations stemming from a visit
Archibald made to the Birmingham TRACON last year.
According to Archibald, Pressley invited him to take a tour of
the TRACON last year, after the columnist wrote a story on air
safety and controller staffing, "that featured some it's-all-good
commentary from the FAA," in the writer's words. Pressley wanted to
show him "real life in the bowels of the radar room."
The journalist visited the TRACON on a Saturday, "driving past
the gate with no guard and on to the control center," he notes.
Pressley gave him a short tour of the facility, including the radar
room and control tower.
All was well... until comments Archibald wrote about the visit
attracted the FAA's ire. The agency launched an investigation,
"called me a security breach and flew a lawyer from Washington to
get the goods," according to Archibald, who adds the lawyer later
told him the issue stemmed from the fact Pressley didn't have the
columnist sign in for his visit.
Five months later, Archibald says, Pressley's boss presented a
list of four infractions. Besides failing to sign Archibald in, the
columnist says the charges state Pressley violated visitation
procedures, shirked his regular duties and misled investigators. As
punishment, Pressley was suspended for two weeks, which works out
to about $5,000 in lost wages and benefits.
Archibald says Pressley admits he failed to have him sign in.
The controller disputes the other three charges, however, and hopes
arbitrators will sort things out.
The columnist questions the timing of the FAA's decision. When
he asked for a comment from Pressley's supervisor, Archibald says
he was referred to the agency's Atlanta facility. But the spokesman
there was out, so his questions were referred to Washington, DC.
Archibald says he's still waiting on an official comment.
"It's coincidence, I suppose, that the ruling came days after
Pressley was quoted in another Birmingham News story questioning
air safety procedures," Archibald says.
As Aero-News reported,
Pressley told the paper "safety was definitely compromised" when
radar scopes at the Birmingham TRACON went blank January 17,
snarling flights in the area for close to five hours.