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Federal Eye
Posted at 03:55 PM ET, 05/11/2011

Air traffic controllers defend themselves on YouTube

Updated 3:55 p.m. ET

Their reputation damaged by a series of embarrassing incidents (napping at the controls, misdirecting a plane with First Lady Michelle Obama onboard), the nation’s largest air traffic controller union is turning to a reliable tool to rehabilitate its image: YouTube.

With strains of Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” in the background, a new 90-second video produced by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association attempts to convince the flying public that a few bad apples shouldn’t spoil the reputations of everyone else.

“You don't know my name, and you don't know my face, but you recognize the work I do every day,” Steve Wallace, a Miami-based controller with 20 years of experience, said at the start of the video.

“How I work every day earns the confidence that you’ve bestowed on me,” Denise Spencer, a 17-year controller in Seattle, said after him.

“I have to be 100 percent, 100 percent of the time,” Wallace said later.

“I’m proud of my profession and the quality of my work,” said Ryan Holloman, a Kansas City controller.

“My voice is the voice that guides you home each and every day,” Spencer said at the end.

The video’s participants are all active union members often quoted by local news outlets, according to NATCA spokesman Doug Church. Union officials initially produced the video for internal purposes, but they decided to publish it online in hopes of generating public interest, he said.

“We had been devoting a lot of attention to professional standards even before the latest headlines,” Church said in an interview. “Almost half of our workforce was hired in the last six years, so we were trying to educate our own members about being professionals.”

The federal government employs more than 15,000 air traffic controllers and NATCA represents more than 20,000 controllers, engineers and other safety experts.

Church said the union hopes the Federal Aviation Administration will distribute the video to air traffic controllers; an agency spokeswoman didn't return requests for comment.

Though the video may go viral online, Church said the union doesn’t have any immediate plans to use it as part of a radio or television ad campaign.

Federal worker unions often turn to radio, TV or Web ads to help bolster their image.

In March the American Federation of Government Employees spent about $250,000 for radio ads in more than a dozen markets to push back against proposed Republican cuts to federal pay and benefits.

Do you like the new video? Does it change your impression of air traffic controllers? Share your opinions in the comments section below.

By  |  03:55 PM ET, 05/11/2011

Categories:  Workplace Issues

 
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