Member in the Spotlight: Ham Ghaffari
Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ham Ghaffari

NATCA Western Pacific Regional Vice President

Air traffic control profession:
Started in April 1990. He has been at Los Angeles Center (ZLA) for his entire air traffic career.

Born in Tehran, Iran. Currently lives in Lancaster, Calif.

Family: Wife, Holly, her three sons Adam, Ben and Christian, and their son Ryan. Both Adam and Ben are currently serving in the USAF.

Q: How and why did you become an air traffic controller?

A: It was a suggestion by a friend at the time. After the Marines, I had put in for two different jobs in California: highway patrol and air traffic control. The air traffic control job happened to come first. I was also in the U.S. Marines as an Aerial Navigator on KC-130s, so I was already familiar with aviation.

Q: Do you have a family history of unionism?

A: No, I don't. I'm a first generation union activist.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a NATCA Regional Vice President?

A: I think it's being able to bring about positive change through a particular vision, and obviously helping the membership with their various needs, whether they’re work related or a personal issue.

Q: What spurred you to get involved in NATCA’s leadership?

A: It was early in my career when I was a trainee. I got to see how change can be brought about by one individual. In this case it was me, There was a scenario when I was training at ZLA where airplanes were delayed, and there was no published holding patterns. Issuing full holding instructions to foreign pilots can be quite cumbersome and very lengthy, which causes frequency congestion. So, one day when we were training, I asked why we didn't have a published holding pattern over Julian, California. My instructor just sort of shrugged, so I asked him how to get a holding pattern published. He said, you can do this, that and this, so I did. I decided to take it upon myself to do the work to get this holding pattern published. Almost a year later there was a brand new published holding pattern at Julian for aircraft inbound to Los Angeles International airport. I loved the idea of being able to bring about positive change.

Q: What is your hobby outside of work?

A: Scuba diving and working out. The best scuba diving experiences I've had were probably at Fiji and Australia. I'm actually a master scuba diver and have been scuba diving for 19 years.  I also enjoy technical diving. At the current time, I don't desire to be a scuba diving instructor, since it would take the fun out of the experience I currently have.

A: Of all your time at NATCA, what is your favorite memory?

A: There are way too many. I would probably say the closing event at the Honolulu Convention, just because it was the first Convention in the region while I was Regional Vice President. I put in a lot of time and effort with the Convention committee to make sure everything was perfect. When it came to the closing event, there were fireworks and so many people in attendance, and I knew right then, it was perfect.

Q: What would you say to others that want to get involved in leadership roles?

A: All you need is the desire. The desire to get involved and get engaged. We can provide as much academics and education as you want, but if the desire to bring about change isn't there, then it's hard to get through to them about what leadership and activism means. You have to have that inner desire to want to see a change.

Q: Any other message you wish to relay to members?

A: There is one thing that's been very big for me being that it's my third term as RVP. For the longest time the Western Pacific Region has been seen as what I like to call Union Lite. I'd like to make us the new hub for union activism, education, and solidarity.