Affirmative action in the control tower

I don't fly.  When folks ask me why, the short answer is that I know too much: I'm a former FAA air traffic controller.

It's been recently reported that the FAA is now actively recruiting new trainees to work in the towers and control rooms directing airplanes and that the criteria they now utilize to screen applicants is a curiously absurd "biographical questionnaire."  Jason L. Riley in the Wall Street Journal:

A recently completed six-month investigation by Fox Business Network found that the Federal Aviation Administration has quietly moved away from merit-based hiring criteria in order to increase the number of women and minorities who staff airport control towers.  The changes come despite the fact that the FAA's own internal reports describe the evidence for changing the hiring process as "weak."

Until 2013, the FAA gave hiring preference to controller applicants who earned a degree from one of its Collegiate Training Initiative schools and scored high enough on an eight-hour screening test called the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam, or AT-SAT, which measures cognitive skills.  The Obama administration, however, determined that the process excluded too many from minority groups.  In May 2013, the FAA's civil rights administrator issued "barrier analyses" of the agency's employment procedures, which recommended "revising how the AT-SAT is used in establishing best-qualified lists."

By the start of last year, the FAA was using a biographical questionnaire (BQ) to initially vet potential hires.  The questions – "How many sports did you play in high school?", "What has been the major cause of your failures?" – seem designed to elicit stories of personal disadvantage or family hardship rather than determine success on the job.

I can tell you with absolute certainty that the FAA Air Traffic Control Division has been down with the affirmative action program for a long time. 

The PATCO controllers' strike during the summer of 1981 seemingly gave the "fire whitey" gang the opening they craved.  There was one problem.  The air traffic system needed to get back up and running smoothly, and especially safely, so that Ronald Reagan's mass firing would look reasonable.  So they quickly hired aviation-experienced people, including pilots and experienced military air traffic controllers.  I was one of them.  Granted, some of these well qualified new guys were black, but no one would look upon this new controller work force and call it a model of so-called diversity.  The big push for hiring other than pale males would have to wait.  Safety first, as it were.

A few things happened in the next few years.  First, the FAA stopped reporting aviation incidents, including near mid-air collisions and runway incursions.  When safety incidents are under-reported or deceitfully downgraded, the system starts to look like perfection, and the FAA will gladly report, as it frequently does, that it is "The Safest System In The World."  These people want the flying public to skate out onto the ice, even as they are lying about how thin the ice is, and while we are at it, how warm it is today.

Along with under-reporting system failures, the FAA started conspiring, almost openly, with leftist groups like the Black and Hispanic Controller's Coalition.  Gay and lesbian organizations started demanding hiring and promotion slots for their members – as if one's preference for a particular style of recreational sexual behavior is an indispensable predictor of air traffic control ability.

NATCA (the National Air Traffic Controllers' Association) replaced PATCO.  I was one of their officers for a period.  The new union gave wide latitude to the wacky leftist organizations, even as they encroached on the union's right to bargain exclusively for working conditions. 

The FAA "Biographical Questionnaire," exposed last night by Tucker Carlson Tonight has been known to me for some time.  Knowing the FAA as I do, nothing about it surprises me.  The entire exercise is designed to identify applicants who are white males for the purpose of eliminating them from consideration.  The FAA has been openly hostile to straight white males since 1981.

My novelEXIT 13A – A Control Tower Diary, is an exposé on FAA abuse of power.  It is written in novel form so names could be changed to protect the guilty. 

There are a lot of reasons to limit your flying to only the most necessary flights.  The affirmative action angle is only a part of the problem.  For a more complete report, read the book.  Most people don't believe me when I tell them that boarding an aircraft is like playing the world's largest game of Russian roulette. 

 See you on Greyhound.

Willie Shields is a former USMC and FAA air traffic controller.  He has experience at some of the nation's busiest control facilities.  Mr. Shields resides in Wilmington, Delaware.

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