A Message to Membership on ATSAP
Friday, November 19, 2010
Pride and Professionalism in ATC
There is a perception in the field, which has been voiced by members of both management and NATCA, that the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) has removed any personal accountability for an individual having an error or deviation. Comments like, “ATSAP degrades safety,” “ATSAP creates an indifference towards safety,” “ATSAP is a drain on professionalism,” “ATSAP protects weak controllers,” “ATSAP is a get out of jail free card,” or “Just ATSAP it” have been used to describe the program.
As aviation safety professionals, and key stake holders in the aviation community, the air traffic controllers that make up this proud union are required to maintain a high level of professionalism and personal pride/accountability on a daily basis in order to perform our job functions effectively; ATSAP does not change this. It is still our job to maintain separation as required by the regulations; it is still our job to ensure that the flying public arrives at their destination safely; and it is still our job to maintain a high level of professionalism while doing it.
ATSAP is not a “Get out of jail free card.” To those that are not involved in the ATSAP Event Review Committee (ERC) discussions, we are sure that it appears this way at times, but we must trust our NATCA ERC representatives to make the right decisions and address the identified issues appropriately. The ERC takes into account a lot of factors, which include: whether or not the actions were reckless, whether or not the individual knowingly and intentionally introduced an unacceptable level of risk into the NAS, and whether or not the submitter has a history of similar non-compliances that would indicate a qualification issue.
Our union and its members have just begun to emerge from one of the most punitive cultures that employees of the FAA have ever seen. It is a huge change in the way we do business, and it is going to take time to see the positive results.
We will continue to work with the FAA on issues like: relevant and effective training methods/tools for those individuals with identified qualification issues, and collaborative resolutions to those identified systemic safety issues. These are works in progress, but they will ultimately provide the foundation for an effective ATSAP program.
ATSAP is a very effective and valuable tool for our membership. Whether you are a member or a membership representative of this union, we ask that you set the example and not allow this misperception to continue to spread and take hold.