Lesson Learned from Air Traffic Strike of 1981

When an ATC Facility has too many controllers, the safety of the flying public requires the extra controller be released to the break room or close proximity.

Controllers who do not have enough work (airplane demand) have a lot of energy to to burn.  They will begin to find things to do and can not nor should be supervised every moment.   Unfortunately people tend to focus on negative impacts and the number of complaints increases.  Give a controller the right number of airplanes to work (that challenges one ability) one has a very happy controller.

Reduce the volume of airplanes and controllers begin to discuss many topics all of which begin to create nuisance interference for those controllers who are supposed to be working aircraft.

Hence systems error evaluations concluded get those extra people out the control room and the level of safety is enhanced.

Problem is what does an organization do with those extra bodies since management positions are limited to the control room?  Union organizations found this time very beneficial to creating dissatisfaction with the work and the work environment.

Two things are infectious – a position outlook and a negative outlook – which do you prefer?

On August 3rd 1981 11,000 air traffic controllers went on strike and we discovered we had too many and the focus turned to a negative outlook!



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