I had to chuckle when reading the planned “furlough” of air traffic controllers due to the “sequester.”
In 1984, I retired from the Air Force after 25 years as an air traffic controller. Six weeks prior to my retirement and while still on duty in Germany, I received a call from a contract air traffic control services company out of Kansas offering me the chief controller position at Otis Control Tower in Falmouth, Mass. (Cape Cod). This was a 24/7 control tower that FAA PATCO union controllers had walked out of and were summarily fired by President Reagan.
I hired former USAF controllers that had worked at busy fighter bases (I was not allowed to hire former FAA PATCO controllers). This was a three-position tower and as the tower was low-traffic density (60,000) operations per year, I operated the tower with two controllers on the day shift, two on the swing (evening) shift, and one controller on the midnight shift. During the day and swing shifts I combined the flight data and ground control positions. I filled in for absences due to sickness, vacations, etc. The total staffing for the tower was eight (8) controllers counting me.
Here is the interesting part. When the FAA had the tower, their staffing was 22 controllers (not counting the chief controller) and the pilots told me they (the FAA) were always trying to “kill” them (near misses, cleared to land/takeoff with vehicles on the runway, etc.).
During my 27-year ATC career, I worked at a number of “joint use” (FAA/USAF) ATC facilities such as the Dayton (Ohio) TRACON, Will Rogers (Oklahoma City) TRACON, and at Alexandria, LA. The FAA was always way overstaffed and I can tell you the PATCO union controllers were the biggest crybabies I have ever seen (and they slept on the midnight shift, too).
When 11,000 of these crybabies walked, their rallying cry was “They can’t do it without us.” Of course we could do it without them — the USAF and FAA had put a strike contingency plan together six months before the strike. The USAF staffed the FAA facilities (with less than one third of the original FAA PATCO staff), trained new controllers, and the rest is history.
I haven’t been in Air Traffic Control since ’87, but I can assure you the FAA, like most government agencies, is “fat” when it comes to their staff. I can also assure you the planned FAA “furlough” is a ruse to punish the public for the “sequester” (which Obama came up with in 2011). Unbelievable.