Second Ground Stop in Chicago Due to Inadequate Technician Staffing

Just days after telling lawmakers about the acute shortage of certified technicians at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), David Spero, national president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), received word this weekend of another ground stop in the Chicago area because of an equipment failure and no technician on site to fix it.
During the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Aviation Subcommittee hearing on Eliminating Bottlenecks: Examining Opportunities to Recruit, Retain, and Engage Aviation Talent, on July 12, President Spero was asked by Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.) about a ground stop in Chicago earlier this summer that was caused by an issue with a radar system. There was no technician on site with the requisite skills to fix the issue quickly so a brief ground stop was needed until an off-duty technician with that skillset could arrive. President Spero made it clear that the problem would have been resolved immediately if the agency had the right number of people with the right training in place.

“And six weeks later, it has happened again in Chicago,” said Spero. “Just like the earlier incident, the lack of adequate staffing directly led to this incident.” On Sunday, July 14, a ground stop was ordered at O’Hare International Airport at 12:38 pm ET because of a 5 volt-power supply failure in the Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X). According to the FAA, ASDE-X is a surveillance system using radar, multilateration and satellite technology that allows air traffic controllers to track surface movement of aircraft and vehicles. While the failure cleared within seconds, it required technician intervention to return it to service. And there was no ASDE-X certified technician on duty at the time to do so.

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Lack of Workforce Plans, Inadequate Staffing Lead to Bottlenecks at FAA

Today, David Spero, national president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), called on Congress to engage with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address the severe staffing shortages that could impact the safety of the world’s largest and most complex air traffic control system.

During the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Aviation Subcommittee hearing on Eliminating Bottlenecks: Examining Opportunities to Recruit, Retain, and Engage Aviation Talent, President Spero acknowledged the challenges faced by the agency to recruit and retain employees, especially when considering the staffing of technicians and aviation safety inspectors.

PASS Testimony

“We have concluded that the agency is not hiring enough of these critical employees and it is a primary bottleneck that limits the opportunities for workers in the FAA,” he said.

The PASS leader addressed current staffing shortages at the agency, the failure of the FAA to develop and implement workforce plans in collaboration with the union and inadequate training for the technician workforce. But he also made note that PASS is in negotiations with the FAA for two new contracts. “This presents a significant opportunity for PASS to work with the agency on ways to enhance recruitment and retention,” he said.

While the media focuses on the shortage of air traffic controllers when reporting on non-weather-related flight delays, President Spero told lawmakers that the shortage of FAA technicians is just as acute.

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Telework Language in FAA Bill Reinforces PASS Bargaining Proposals

Union Expects FAA to Comply with Reauthorization Legislation

PASS commends the passage of the five-year FAA Reauthorization legislation. For the first time, this bill includes strong policy language regarding telework. Congress understands that telework is an important driver of recruitment and retention of federal employees and can lead to significant agency cost savings. Telework should only be applied in consultation with its labor representatives. PASS is in the process of negotiating successor collective bargaining agreements for the bargaining unit employees it represents at the FAA, in Aviation Safety and the Air Traffic Organization. The reauthorization bill’s language reinforces all of the telework concepts PASS has been proposing to the agency at the bargaining table. Based on passage of this bill, the union expects the FAA to comply with the law and agree to PASS’s telework proposals in short order.

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PASS Celebrates Public Service Recognition Week

As we look around the country, particularly at public servants who work on all levels of government to ensure safety, security and services vital to all Americans, it is important to recognize the invaluable contributions that these dedicated individuals make every day.

Since 1985, Congress has designated the first full week of May as Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) to show appreciation for the people who serve our nation as government employees, at the federal, state, county, local and tribal levels. PSRW is a great opportunity for the country to acknowledge the important work all federal employees do every day to keep our nation running.

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PASS on Return-to-Office Plans

PASS is providing the templates below for employees to use when filing a grievance regarding your personal telework situation. The pdfs are fillable and you should add your name, facility, location, incident date (when the telework was denied/terminated), and your signature at the bottom. You should also include information specific to your case. You have only 20 calendar days from the denial or termination to file your grievance.

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PASS Supports FAA Reauthorization Bill

PASS is pleased with many of the provisions included in the five-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that will be taken up on the Senate floor this week. The union worked with its allies on Capitol Hill to secure language that will increase funding and staffing for the 11,000 employees it represents at the FAA.

“We have been sounding alarm bells for more than a year about how inadequate staffing among both our Technical Operations and Aviation Safety workforces can have a detrimental impact on aviation safety,” said National President Dave Spero. While the FAA Workforce Review Audit provision is welcome and necessary, the agency needs to move quickly on the staffing model for aviation safety inspectors, he said. “With all of the issues that have emerged around the safety culture at Boeing, it is imperative that this workforce be fully staffed so that they can more closely regulate manufacturers as well as the airlines,” President Spero continued.

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