Member Spotlight: Christopher Boughn, Eastern Region
Thursday, November 17, 2011

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles spotlighting veteran NATCA members looking back at the first 25 years of the union leading up to the June 19, 2012 silver anniversary of NATCA's FLRA certification. We'll profile one member each month from each of the 10 regions, in addition to also remembering key events that have helped shape the union and its growth as a strong advocate for its members and aviation safety.

Left to right, William (son), Melanie (daughter), Laurie (daughter), Becky (wife) and Chris Boughn.

“NATCA means everything to me,” said Chris Boughn, former New York Center (ZNY) president and current controller at Washington Center (ZDC). “It’s always been very special in my life. It’s a camaraderie throughout every region.”

As one of the “original-originals” of NATCA, joining the union days after its certification, Boughn is a walking, talking history and personification of NATCA.

After leaving his post as a controller for the U.S. Army, the FAA hired Boughn in 1984. Shortly after starting at ZNY he was handing out signature cards for the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) before NATCA existed, but joined the union as soon as it received certification.

“The application came in the mail and I sent it back in the mail the same day,” said Boughn.

After joining, Boughn was “kind of on the sideline,” but was recruited to be ZNY safety representative by Mike McNally, ZNY facility representative at that time. The push from McNally was all Boughn needed to become an exceptionally active member. Following his position as safety representative, he was area representative from 1981 to 1991, ZNY Vice President from 1991 to 1993, ZNY President from 1993 to 1998, and Eastern Region Legislative Chair in 1999. In addition he was involved as a NATCA representative to the FAA Staffing Task Force for FAA reform in 1996, a member of the Green Book Contract Negotiating Team in 1998, and a basic representative training instructor and advanced arbitration instructor in 1998. Boughn also became a NATCA National Arbitration Advocate in 1992 and a NATCA Academy Instructor in 2009 and still holds both positions.

In the years before NATCA existed, Boughn said that the work atmosphere was similar to the White Book years and at his facility the need for a union was obvious.

“It wasn’t just controllers who were saying we needed a union,” Boughn said. “It was management too. I distinctly remember talking to people and they were saying, ‘you need to reorganize.’”

And reorganize they did. Boughn said the Eastern Region did not encounter any region-specific issues after the union formation, unlike the Alaska and Central Regions which encountered neglect from the FAA (Alaska) and exceptionally punitive workforce conditions from the FAA (Central). According to Boughn, the Eastern Region has always been a tight group of people. “Whenever I needed somebody I knew someone would be there for me and have my back, if not at my local then somewhere else in the Eastern Region,” Boughn said.

One person who has always had Boughn’s back is Eastern Regional Vice President Phil Barbarello. Boughn and Barbarello were students together in the very first facility representative class and even ended up as roommates for the duration of the class. During Boughn’s tenure at ZNY, he leaned heavily on Barbarello and vice versa.

“I felt that he belonged at my local and I belonged at his local [New York TRACON]; it was a mutual thing,” he said.

Of all the roles Boughn has served in NATCA, the most gratifying one was his role on the 1998 contract team and his time as ZNY facility representative.

“I probably had one of the best locals in NATCA,” said Boughn. “And I still feel that way even though I’m not a member there anymore. It’s such a great group of people to work with and it was an honor working for them.”

Boughn has benefitted from NATCA in many ways throughout his membership, but it’s clear which benefit tops the rest.

“I’ve built very special friendships throughout the years because of NATCA; Phil Barbarello, Mike McNally, Joe Fruscella,” Boughn said. “They taught me a lot in my FAA career and in my NATCA career.”

For young members looking to serve the union and build the kind of relationships Boughn has now, his advice is to get involved take a NATCA course and let the “original-originals” share their knowledge.

“I’m the history of NATCA and it’s time for us to put the future back out there,” Boughn said. “It’s an honor standing in front of these classes and passing on my knowledge.”

Boughn will remain at the front of those classes for several years to come. He transferred to ZDC seven years ago and although he’s been eligible to retire for three years, he plans to stay at ZDC for another seven to eight years.

“I’ll go out when I face mandatory retirement at 56; and I’ll be active right up until the very end,” Boughn said.