The Federal Aviation Administration, it is generally acknowledged, has had management problems for years, and has studied them without visibly improving the perception of both troops and outsiders that things could be better. Those problems received major emphasis after the air traffic controllers' strike in August 1981 and have been a worry at the parent Transportation Department ever since.
Donald D. Engen, the FAA's administrator, ordered an attitude survey of all agency employes in July. The results, mailed to employes this week, in large measure ratify what was already suspected: that they like their jobs, like their pay and think they know what they are supposed to do.
The bad news is that more than half of all employes felt that FAA management does not consider the impact of change on employes, keep employes informed, provide enough information on how proposed changes will affect them, or actually implement changes the way they were explained.
Worse, more than two-thirds of the employes said they see no change or only a slight positive change in the agency's emphasis on managing people.
Much of what was discovered is typical of what many companies have found in surveys of their employes. The FAA is now breaking out the survey results for specific offices, where managers will get to see how they rate with their troops.
Engen said in an interview that, where air traffic controllers are concerned, "I don't think we've made much impovement in the way we manage. That's our first priority."
The survey, conducted by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, will give Engen a base line from which to measure progress, he said. "I just set up an office of associate administrator for human resource management," Engen said, "and I'm dedicated to enhancing the individual's role in the FAA." MORE ON THE SPEED LIMIT. . .
Members of the National Academy of Sciences panel that studied the 55 mph issue for Congress and the Transportation Department were unable to decide whether the limit should be raised on some rural highways, but they contributed greatly to understanding the issue and how Americans feel about it.
Their report, "55: A Decade of Experience," contains some fascinating data about the costs and benefits of driving more slowly than we used to do, about what is happening on the highways today and about human nature generally.
In the first place, a great majority of those polled by the Gallup organization favor the lower speed limit. However, those same folks told pollsters they expect not to get a ticket from the highway patrol when they push the speed limit just a little, say 5 miles per hour.
Secondly, drivers' average speed has been creeping slowly upward since 55 was adopted in 1974 as a response to the Arab oil crisis. The average speed driven on rural sections of the Interstate highway system was 57.6 mph in 1974 and 59.1 mph in 1983. Anyone who has driven the Los Angeles freeway system recently knows that, in the absence of a traffic jam, the speed limit is about 65. Policemen not exceeding that speed themselves don't seem to be stopping people who are.
Not surprisingly, the more people drive, the less they favor the 55 mph limit. Of those who drive more than 30,000 miles a year, only 36.1 percent "strongly favor" the 55 mph limit; but of those who drive 2,000 miles or less, 74.4 percent "strongly favor" it.
The main reason cited for 55 is that it saves lives, and the Transportation Research Board panel agreed that between 2,000 and 4,000 lives per year are saved; there are 2,500 to 4,500 fewer serious, severe and critical injuries and 34,000 to 61,000 fewer minor and moderate injuries. As a result, medical costs are reduced by $50 million to $90 million annually.
There are also savings in government-supported disability and survivor programs of about $65 million annually.
The cost of the lower speed limit is almost entirely in additional travel time. In 1982, the panel estimated, slower speeds cost Americans 1 billion hours more than they would have spent driving in 1973. The average time loss per trip is estimated to be a few minutes.
With all this data and no firm recommendation from the panel, the pressure from western states to permit higher speed limits on rural freeways is certain to reappear in Congress. GOING OUT OF BUSINESS. . .
The Civil Aeronautics Board really is going out of business Jan. 1. DOT last week published a lengthy regulation detailing where the CAB functions it inherits on that date will be located.
The CAB once had more than 800 employes; it is down to about 320 and it is expected that about 290 will transfer.
Consumer protection, airline service for small communities and international aviation issues are the primary remaining functions of the regulatory agency that once decided where airlines could fly and what they could charge.