Member Focus: Bob Aitken
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Bob Aitken pictured (right to left) with wife Erin, daughter Madison and son Tommy.
NATCA career: Started with FAA in 1992 as a Civil Engineer. Joined NATCA in 1997.
Born and raised, other places of living: Grew up in the Boston area. Spent five years in the U.S. Navy Seabees. Came back from California for college.
Q: How did you get involved with NATCA?
A: We had some very smart engineers who had the foresight to know that we (the engineers) needed to get organized. I was just out doing my job but when it was decided we would organize, I was all in.
Q: Did you have a family history of unionism? Was there any reason you got involved in a union?
A: No history in my family. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I believed, and still do, in being unified.
Q: What are you involved in with NATCA?
A: I have been a representative in some capacity since joining. For the past eight years I have been the Principal Representative for the Engineers in New England as well as the Local President for Region X. I did spend a few years on the National Legislative Committee and continue to be the Legislative Coordinator for NATCA in Massachusetts.
Q: How did you get involved in these leadership roles within NATCA? Was there anybody that influenced you?
A: I forgot to step backwards. Seriously though I took the Local President position when our current Region X Regional Vice President, Mike MacDonald, moved on to national office. I figured I would step up for a while and have grown into the position.
Q: As most of our members are air traffic controllers, what can you tell them about your job as an engineer? What have you and your colleagues worked on that can teach those members more about what you do?
A: I would let them know we are out there to help. Our mission for the FAA is to keep improving the facilities and equipment that keep the NAS moving. Being part of NATCA has been invaluable in getting work accomplished. I tell all my members to introduce themselves to the facility representative first thing when they show up on site. Our work should always make the controller world better — whether it’s upgrading an ILS, installing new equipment in a cab or remodeling a break room.
Q: Has there been a favorite moment for you while at NATCA?
A: There have so been many. One of the most memorable single moments was being in the convention hall, maybe in St. Louis, and it was announced that Tim Haines was very sick and needed a year’s worth of leave donations to retire early. We passed the forms out and retired him with donations that day. It was very emotional. I still tell that story to new members as an example of the strength we have as a unit.
Another very significant success for the engineers was helping with stopping the Agency from consolidating us into three Service Area locations from the nine Regions. We knew this was wrong so we got active legislatively and were able to get them to change direction and keep the engineers in nine Regions. This was a stressful time but we really got to see the strength of NATCA when we pull together.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time outside of NATCA?
A: I just like to enjoy life with my wife and growing kids. They are getting old enough to appreciate travel so we are trying to see what we can between sports seasons. We are definitely an outdoor family.
Q: Do you have any advice/tips/messages for members who would like to get involved?
A: Jump in. NATCA truly is a family. Joining and paying dues is just a first step. You really can’t appreciate what a quality organization NATCA is until you get involved. I would put NATCA up against any organization out there.