Professional Standards Program Teaches Air Traffic Controllers Valuable Lessons
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Recognizing and reinforcing professionalism in the air traffic controller (ATC) industry is important for safe air travel. That’s why NATCA, in accordance with Article 52 of the NATCA/FAA Collective Bargaining Agreement, created a National Professional Standards program for the first time in the history of the FAA. The initial test sites, Dallas, Chicago, and Anchorage, Alaska. are already implementing this critical new program.
Professional Standards is a peer-to-peer program, supported and funded by the FAA, designed to teach ATC’s useful tools to improve their profession and pinpoint issues that need to be addressed. The goal of the Professional Standards Program is to promote and maintain the highest degree of professional conduct among air traffic controllers. In working to achieve that goal, NATCA created the code of the Professional Air Traffic Controller, which focuses on three standards:
- The first standard recognizes the contract that we have with the public. Every time someone purchases a ticket on an aircraft, they are buying a belief. They are buying the belief in a system that gets them from here to there. They are buying a belief in the safety of all aspects of the system. Not just air traffic control, but also the equipment, the runways, in all facets. This concept recognizes our commitment to that public trust.
- The second standard focuses on our commitment to each other. It recognizes that how we conduct and perform should inspire and motivate those around us by demonstrating professionalism. The safety of the system is our highest priority and who we are is demonstrated by the standard of excellence we maintain.
- The third standard of the code recognizes about our contract with the profession. It is a recognition that everything we do reflects on who we are, how we are viewed and how we as global leaders set the standard.
“Professional Standards provides a unique opportunity to deal with issues before they arise,” said NATCA National Workgroup on Professionalism Member Garth Koleszar, “We’re going to continue to roll out the professionalism program, hoping to reach out to en route facilities, large facilities and any other surrounding areas by the end of 2012.”
The Professional Standards program is a three-day course covering a variety of training sessions that will teach air traffic controllers valuable tools in improving and maintaining professionalism within the bargaining unit. The concepts are not necessarily what an air traffic controller would consider part of their job. Within the course, an ATC might learn instruction on how to mentor professionalism, how to address potential performance problems, and how to determine and resolve conflict. Committee members go through a strenuous full-day session of scenarios to test the skills they’ve learned over the earlier parts of the courses.
"It definitely provides them with a brand new perspective on the occupation and profession itself," Koleszar said.
Professional Standards Committee (PSC) members at each of the test facilities will brief their coworkers on the program. As more people become familiar with the Professional Standards program, the National Workgroup on Professionalism will be able to provide guidance and support to these facilities.
“The training provided by the National Workgroup has been well-received at all three locations,” NATCA National Workgroup on Professionalism Member Andy Marosvari said. “Committee members have embraced the concept and feedback has been positive.”
Once the feedback is received from participants the NATCA National Workgroup on Professionalism can gain insight into what issues can be fixed, so improvements can be made throughout facilities nationwide.
“The Professional Standards program is a fantastic segue into the Safety Culture promoted by the ATO.” NATCA National Workgroup on Professionalism Member Jeff Richards said. “Professional Standards combined with ATSAP will be a huge step forward in moving the Agency completely into a thriving Safety Culture.”
Last week, NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert and Great Lakes RVP Bryan Zilonis joined the Professional Standards workgroup in Chicago for the first day of training. This was the last of the test sites to receive the training program until Professional Standards is expanded to additional facilities.