Working Week meets Kendall Mann, a veteran Greensboro, North Carolina-based air traffic controller who serves as his union's facility representative and has a number of issues with the national regulator

What sparked your interest in aviation?

My father was a pilot for American Airlines, so I grew up flying. I worked for American on the ramp in Miami. I flew as a crew member in the air force and it seems I've always been involved in aviation in one form or another.

Kendall Mann Working week

Describe a typical day?

As soon as I get to work, I sign in, read what we call the R&I or "read and initial" binder. I then check with the watch supervisor to get my assignment for the shift. Greensboro is what is known as an "up/down" facility. This means we work both the tower and the TRACON (terminal radar approach control), hence the up (tower)/down (TRACON). We can be assigned any number of positions and everyone has their favourites.

In the TRACON, I'd be happy to work final radar any day. This is the person who actually puts you on the approach to the runway. It is a no-paperwork, limited co-ordination position. You just talk to airplanes. I like that. In the tower I love working what we call "local control". This is the person who actually works the runways. Clear for take-off and clear to land is the local controller.

Most days, things are pretty routine. Add weather, VIP movements, diversions and emergencies - well, then things can get really interesting. Not always in a good way. At some time during most days, we also take time to do continuation training. This could be as simple as a thunderstorm awareness (like we need to be told to be aware of thunderstorms) training or runway incursion prevention. We usually stay on position around an hour. After that, a 30 minute break is in order. We work eight hours rotating through positions, then head for the house.

What challenges do you face on a daily basis?

Sadly, the biggest challenge is the desire to go to work any more. I used to love this job and couldn't wait to get a sector. I still like working the airplanes, but the Federal Aviation Administration has made the workplace so miserable that I'm counting the days till retirement. The FAA imposed work and pay rules that are unreasonable, disrespectful of our professionalism, and downright draconian. It has resulted in almost 4,000 controllers leaving the FAA in the past 30 months. Only 943 days to go!

What do you like/dislike most about your job?

I still love the camaraderie of being a controller. Controllers are an interesting group. We can be kidding around like a bunch of high school kids one moment and the next working like a well- oiled machine working an emergency. The teamwork in this job is amazing. We never operate as individuals, we are a team.

Safety may just be a buzz word for some, but for air traffic controllers, it is everything. That is why training is so important. The other controllers you are working with must have faith that you will do your part. You have to be able to trust each other.

I most dislike FAA management and the total lack of leadership in the agency. If Mr Babbitt wants to fix the problems at FAA, he needs to start at the top and completely replace the management team as they have failed the US taxpayer miserably.

What recommendations would you give to someone interested in getting into this line of work?

Learn how to fly. I think it really helps. Try to get a tour of a local ATC facility. It takes a little effort, but is worth it. However, I suggest waiting until the FAA is fixed. They have played bait and switch with so many new hires, I wouldn't touch this agency until they are honest again. It shouldn't be too long with President Obama in the White House. Make sure you have alternative plans. Not everyone can be a controller.


Source: Flight International