Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Fuzzy 'facts' from Garnett Roper

Published:Monday | February 8, 2016 | 12:00 AMJerry Bartlett


I am a retired airline pilot who was an active United States pilot when Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controller in the US. I have a hard time taking Garnett Roper seriously when he so grossly misstates the facts regarding that situation ('Air traffic controllers: sticking up the government and the people', Sunday Gleaner, January 31, 2016).

The US air-traffic control system duties were not assumed by 'nearby military' facilities. How ridiculous! Where is the nearby military air traffic control system for Atlanta, for instance, or any other city, for that matter. For the most part, enough  union controllers crossed the picket lines so that the system continued to operate.

The controller union had valid reasons to demand reform. Controllers were working while exhausted. The senile Reagan was a tool of corporate America and he was very anti-labour.

At the time, the air-traffic controllers were underpaid. Mr Roper does not understand that, worldwide, controllers, their unions and government authorities have implemented work rules that make air travel more safe. If a controller is working an all-night shift, the controller is not allowed to change to an all-day shift, for instance, because of the proven danger of interrupting one's sleep cycle. Therefore, the controller must have a certain interval free of duty to adjust to the different sleep cycle. This has been proven necessary by scientist and medical authorities.

In fact, a controller could, without the required break, due to a shift change, end up working two shifts end to end. Jamaica, in many cases, may not have the intensity in the ATC situation that one might find in Atlanta, Chicago or New York, but at times, the Jamaican controller might have some demanding situations.

It is better to play it safe and have international standards at Norman Manley International Airport. The salaries of the employees of the Jamaican controllers will not break the bank and, indeed, the airlines pay rather large fees that should be used to pay professional controllers.