In midst of ATC review, A controller expresses unvarnished, inappropriately expressed thoughts
Comments when edited express REAL SAFETY concerns
In dealing with ATC review, public needs to understand and speak to SAFETY
By Anthony Clark Carpio
Oct. 15, 2019
Tweets posted on an account apparently owned by an air-traffic controller at Hollywood Burbank Airport and a Federal Aviation Administration employee, have offended some community groups, including UproarLA, which was formed to address airport-noise issues in the Los Angeles area.
The tweets make disparaging remarks regarding comments made by southern San Fernando Valley residents during recent public meetings addressing ongoing airport noise issues.
The tweets appear to have been posted during the first two meetings of the Southern San Fernando Valley Airplane Noise Task Force on Aug. 28 and Sept. 11, and make belittling comments about the issues raised by residents impacted by departing flights out of the Burbank airport for the past two years.
Devin Duran, an air traffic controller who works at Hollywood Burbank Airport, posted disparaging tweets aimed at the south San Fernando Valley residents affected by airplane noise.
The Twitter account apparently owned by Devin Duran, which had 211 followers, was made private Tuesday afternoon. The Leader attained screenshots of the tweets while the account was still public.
The Leader sent a direct message to Duran on Twitter, but he did not respond, and his account was no longer public soon afterward.
“Talk about extra as [expletive], these people brought a PA system and played jet traffic noise at full volume when the meeting was adjourned,” one tweet stated during the Aug. 28 meeting. “I’m gonna assume it was the @UproarLA1 [sic] folk.”
At the bottom of the tweet was an animated gif of actor Robert Downey Jr. rolling his eyes.
A tweet later that night stated: “Its [sic] clear that not one person that spoke understands the complexity of the congested airspace that is BUR VNY SMO and LAX.”
The tweet was referring to the air traffic around Hollywood Burbank Airport, Van Nuys Airport, Santa Monica Municipal Airport and Los Angeles International Airport.
The task force, made up of city and federal representatives, was created to address noise concerns expressed by several residents from Studio City, Sherman Oaks and other communities in the southern San Fernando Valley regarding airplanes leaving Hollywood Burbank.
Airport officials and the FAA have acknowledged that airplanes departing from Hollywood Burbank have moved farther south before making their northbound turns, so they fly over neighborhoods in the southern San Fernando Valley.
Members from UproarLA and other community groups like Studio City for Quiet Skies have been trying to work with airport and FAA officials to find a solution for the past two years.
In the past few months, the recently formed task force has been working to address the noise concerns over the southern San Fernando Valley, but the tweets on Duran’s account have some residents second-guessing those efforts.
“Our community has long felt lied to and ridiculed by the FAA. At every step of the way in our two-year fight, they’ve shown they are not taking the community’s pain seriously,” wrote Lisa Carloss, a board member of UproarLA in an email on Tuesday.
“These public tweets from the FAA’s representative in the Burbank [air traffic control] tower embody how the FAA treats the communities across the country it is devastating through its failed NextGen program. This is the person that actually controls the planes flying at low altitudes over our homes. It validates our feelings have been right all along — the FAA just doesn’t care,” Carloss added.
The Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen, is a satellite-based navigation system implemented by the FAA to make flights across the country more efficient.
NextGen was implemented in Southern California in March 2017, and some residents think the new system is the reason why there are more flights over the south San Fernando Valley.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in a statement on Tuesday the tweets do not represent the federal agency or the position of the FAA.
“The FAA is aware of and sensitive to community concerns. The agency is committed to supporting the San Fernando Valley Task Force as the panel works to develop consensus recommendations to address the communities’ issues,” Gregor wrote.
“The FAA will consider the recommendations that the task force proposes,” he added.
Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Assn., a labor union that represents air traffic controllers hired by the FAA, said on Tuesday that Duran does not hold an office that allows him to speak on behalf of the union.
Officials at Hollywood Burbank Airport declined to comment.
Not to try to condone the tweets, but to try to explain the perspective of the safety professionals who work in the above hexagon.
First and foremost, their work is extremely STRESSFUL. These highly trained professionals are extraordinarily aware that their performance of their jobs is a matter of life and death. They live under constant awareness that an error may have greater consequences than a brain surgeon with one patient on the operating table. In the greater scheme of things controllers are imbued with a higher mission than almost any federal or private job.
Second, the LAX Basin Airspace is the MOST COMPLEX AIRSPACE in the US and probably the world. A controller, accepting a flight arriving at BUR or departing from the airport formerly known as Bob Hope Airport, must know the proper altitude, right speed, correct heading and relevant radio frequencies. That is just the basic information about of which she/he must be in command; the controller must be conscious of
where might the flight incur conflicting traffic,
how weather might impact the pilot’s ability to see the runway, to line up with the centerline, to maintain the assigned altitude or even to see the landing lights
and even the competence of the flight crew to adhere to the exacting ATC requirements.
The controllers’ probability to achieve 100% successful landings INCREASES as the defined flight patterns are simpler, straighter and more standardized. Variations increases the complexity of his/her guiding duties and increases risk. Turns or altitudes which satisfy community noise sensitivities are part of their calculus, but the more aberrations, the greater the likelihood of error.
When the controller attacks the public for failing to understand COMPLEXITY, she/he is not just concerned about simplifying the job, but increasing SAFETY. The concern may not have been artfully expressed (twitter/text has no grammarian critics), but there is substance behind the comment.
Third, the hiring criteria for controllers does not include public relations sensitivities. Their job entails blunt, clear and direct communications. The dialogue between the cockpit and the tower is intended to express critical information with efficiency, not with the niceties that are the métier of public relations. The tweets were not sent to the public; so, the thoughts were expressed in undiplomatic terms. Given a history of such unvarnished conversations, Mr. Duran might have spoken as eloquently as he wrote his social media.
As noted above, the above is intended to put the twitter in context. The FAA’s process and personnel selected to explain NextGen to communities have been far from ideal. As annoying as the attitude and lack of outreach may have been, Congress has given great latitude for implementing these new procedures. In dealing with a federal agency with considerable power, it behooves the communities to understand the policies, priorities and even vocabulary of the FAA as the BEST STRATEGY to alter their “preferred option of the government. Yes, the tweet may have offended many, but the message sent, however unartfully, expressed concerns that are valid,
- Inform pilots about nearby planes or potentially hazardous conditions, such as weather, speed and direction of wind, or visibility problems.
- Issue landing and take-off authorizations or instructions.
- Transfer control of departing flights to traffic control centers and accept control of arriving flights.
- Provide flight path changes or directions to emergency landing fields for pilots traveling in bad weather or in emergency situations.
- Alert airport emergency services in cases of emergency or when aircraft are experiencing difficulties.
- Monitor or direct the movement of aircraft within an assigned air space or on the ground at airports to minimize delays and maximize safety.
- Direct pilots to runways when space is available or direct them to maintain a traffic pattern until there is space for them to land.
- Monitor aircraft within a specific airspace, using radar, computer equipment, or visual references.
- Direct ground traffic, including taxiing aircraft, maintenance or baggage vehicles, or airport workers.
- Contact pilots by radio to provide meteorological, navigational, or other information.
- Maintain radio or telephone contact with adjacent control towers, terminal control units, or other area control centers to coordinate aircraft movement.
- Determine the timing or procedures for flight vector changes.
- Initiate or coordinate searches for missing aircraft.
- Provide on-the-job training to new air traffic controllers.
- Check conditions and traffic at different altitudes in response to pilots’ requests for altitude changes.
- Relay air traffic information, such as courses, altitudes, or expected arrival times, to control centers.
- Inspect, adjust, or control radio equipment or airport lights.
- Compile information about flights from flight plans, pilot reports, radar, or observations.
- Organize flight plans or traffic management plans to prepare for planes about to enter assigned airspace.
- Review records or reports for clarity and completeness and maintain records or reports, as required under federal law.
- Complete daily activity reports and keep records of messages from aircraft.
- Conduct pre-flight briefings on weather conditions, suggested routes, altitudes, indications of turbulence, or other flight safety information.
- Analyze factors such as weather reports, fuel requirements, or maps to determine air routes.
- Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
- Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions.
- Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
- Time Management — Managing one’s own time and the time of others.
- Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
- Operation Monitoring — Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
- Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
- Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
- Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
- Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
- Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
- Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
- Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Speed of Closure — The ability to quickly make sense of, combine, and organize information into meaningful patterns.
- Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
- Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
- Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
- Time Sharing — The ability to shift back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information (such as speech, sounds, touch, or other sources).
- Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
- Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
- Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
- Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
- Auditory Attention — The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
- Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
- Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
- Originality — The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
- Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
- Mathematical Reasoning — The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
- Memorization — The ability to remember information such as words, numbers, pictures, and procedures.
- Number Facility — The ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly.
- Visual Color Discrimination — The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness.
- Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
- Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
- Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
- Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.
- Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
- Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
 See Table I for a compilation of Tasks, Skills and Abilities for hiring of controller
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