Recurrent Training Hits Its Stride, Receives Praise From Leadership
Thursday, May 10, 2012

NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert participates in a class at NATCA National Office along with employees from FAA Headquarters and NATCA National Office. NATCA Recurrent Training lead Lisa Cyr teaches along side her FAA Recurrent Training counterpart, Central Service Area Terminal Manager Margaret Rendon.

Implemented earlier this year, Recurrent Training is in full swing and a prime example of collaboration between NATCA and the FAA.

The Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Safety and Technical Training and NATCA collaboratively created Recurrent Training to try to change the way air traffic controllers and managers are being trained. The workforce will be trained twice a year on topics gathered from Air Traffic Safety Action Program  (ATSAP) reports, Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) activities, as well as feedback from the field.

In addition to Recurrent Training being a part of local training requirements, it will also provide consistent training curriculum across the country.

Currently, Recurrent Training is divided into two parts, a four-hour facilitated workshop and four hours of computer-based learning. Eventually Recurrent Training will change to better meet the field’s needs as well as incorporate different teaching methods and technology.  

The first iteration of the four-hour facilitated workshop includes safety culture, crew resource management and conflict resolution. The topics were selected based on common themes and threads found in ATSAP reports. The training is being delivered around the country by teams of one NATCA and one management facilitator. The facilitated portion of Recurrent Training allows controllers and managers to have conversations on topics that are relevant to their everyday operation, as well as learning skills that aren’t currently taught at the academy or through their training. The computer-based learning includes topics such as Bird Activity, Runway Incursions, Safety Alerts and Traffic Advisories, Weather, Wake Turbulence, Fatigue Awareness and Countermeasures, and ATSAP Refresher.  

"The feedback from the field is encouraging," said ATO Safety Promotions Manager Bob Clyburn. "It appears the workshops are generating the types of discussions we had hoped for. I believe that is attributed to workshop content that is timely, relevant and accurate, and delivered by people who are energized, credible and knowledgeable."   

NATCA’s Recurrent Training lead Lisa Cyr (Albuquerque Center, ZAB) said that in order for the workforce to move forward and change its safety culture, it must change its attitude, beliefs, perceptions and ideas about its actions and more importantly, its inactions.  

“I could easily point to my fellow controllers or my supervisors and expose their faults and how they block the system,” said Cyr. “However, as an organization, we will never evolve if individuals are unwilling to change for the better. I believe this training will provide opportunities for all participants to learn and grow, and ultimately shift our organization to a positive and just safety culture.”

Cyr added that a vital part of the program’s progress has been the participation of FAA employees at headquarters and high-level executives.

“We had employees from many lines of business attend, and it wasn't just Safety Programs and Technical Training employees,” she said.

Among those attendees were ATO and NATCA Headquarters leadership and employees, including NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, ATO Deputy Chief Operating Officer Rick Ducharme, NATCA Executive Director Barry Krasner and NATCA Director of Safety and Technology Dale Wright.

"To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to spending a half day at FAA Headquarters but this training was worth it,” said Krasner. “I'm impressed."

One of NATCA’s 12 Core Cadre and original Recurrent Training Representative Jamaal Haltom (Las Vegas Tower, LAS) said that it was very important to have leaders and non-operational employees attend the course so those in the field know the training program has support and is driven from all levels within NATCA and the FAA.

“The goal of the program is to let the rank and file know the FAA and NATCA are invested in a positive safety culture,” said Haltom. “We are getting out of a culture of isolating people when an incident occurs and into one where we look at it from a systematic view and increase the overall safety of the National Airspace System.”

NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert expressed the importance of NATCA attaining the safety culture Haltom described.

“It is critical there is a robust safety reporting system in order to truly address safety issues inherent in the system and to continue working at enhancing safety,” she said. “We will not have that robust safety reporting system we need if the Agency continues to lay blame and take punitive action on individuals."

Not only are NATCA and the FAA ‘talking the talk,’ they are ‘walking the walk’ in their commitment to a positive safety culture. There was a recent incident at LAS, where Haltom is the NATCA Facility Representative, and he saw the training and positive safety culture in action.

“It was a really good example of when the training actually translates into how we do business,” said Haltom. “It’s one thing to say ‘We’re going to have a safety culture,’ it’s another thing to actually see it implemented when incidents occur.”

Gilbert said that every individual within the FAA can help the Recurrent Training program continue moving forward and be successful by taking the time to not only actively participate in the class, but to also provide feedback and make suggestions to improve it.

NATCA Executive Director Barry Krasner speaks during a class.

NATCA and FAA employees participate in Recurrent Training at FAA Headquarters. Jamaal Haltom teaches.

NATCA and FAA employees participate in Recurrent Training at FAA Headquarters. One of NATCA's 12 Core Cadre Jamaal Haltom teaches along side his FAA Recurrent Training counterpart, Fort Worth Meacham Tower Air Traffic Manager Deborah Chaproniere.