Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The day after - several days after

After several attempts, I've managed to retrieve the original entry for Saturday the fifth. So here it is, several days late and several dollars short. Okay, not dollars, but perhaps paragraphs. I'm pretty sure that there was originally more to this, but here's what I salvaged for you:

It's the day after . . . the Fourth of July. Through the vagaries of our scheduling at work, I had a late shift last night - after having an early early shift the day before. But never mind about that - the show from the tower was incredible. From sundown until I left at midnight, there was a steady barrage of fireworks of all sorts all across the city. A number of inbound pilots said that it was unbelievable: apparently the entire LA basin was a carpet of fireworks. Several pilots likened it to flying into Baghdad, and there were several close calls on short final. We were giving cautionary advisories to the pilots for most of the evening. Naturally, after being dead all afternoon, the busiest traffic of the whole day was right around the nine o'clock hour, when all the official displays started. There was no indication whatever that fireworks are illegal in most of the basin cities. As is often the case, there are a few exceptions: Compton and Lakewood are two I know of, and I suspect that there are probably a handful of others. What with California's several-year drought and the hundreds of fires already raging, why they're legal anywhere in the state at all is a mystery to me. In light of the supreme court's recent decision on handguns, though, I don't see any imminent change. Okay, I suppose that somewhere out in the desert, say Mojave or Needles, there are areas that would be safe for civilians to play with fireworks (and yes, I'll concede that fireworks most likely are not covered by the Second Amendment). Folks may not be able to afford to keep their houses or fill their SUV gas tanks, but they gotta have their fireworks. An interesting observation made by a number of us in the tower was that the majority of the unofficial fireworks being shot off were in the inner city areas, i.e. South Central and Watts. Whereas just about the only fireworks in the beach cities seemed to be the public displays, which were definitely impressive. We had front row seats for the shows at El Segundo and Playa del Rey. My favorites are the ones that make rings around a central core; they look like the planet Saturn.

Things at work are relatively calm at the moment. After the intense training activity over the last year and a half, we're down to two trainees. Well three, counting the newest supervisor. I think we're expecting one more later this summer, and then that's it for the year. My gut approximation is that about half of our trainees make it, maybe a little less - I'm sorry to say it, but I don't remember all of them: some were upstairs (in the cab) for no more than a month. But the half-dozen that have made it have eased the scheduling a little: I'm now getting a real weekend every other week, after over a year of straight six-day weeks. I don't know how long it'll last though, as we've got a couple of people who are already eligible for retirement, and a couple more coming up within the next year. In addition, we've got four people selected out with release dates which start coming up next year. A couple of these have previously been delayed, and all of them have been waiting for years.

We're also preparing for a remodeling of the tower cab. Ever since the new tower went into operation a dozen years ago, the vertically-challenged among the controllers at LAX have been stretching on their tippy-toes to see over the counters. Some have even resorted to using step stools to improve their view. The plan is for the entire tower cab to get a makeover: the stairs will be moved, all the counters will be replaced with lower and shorter units, several positions will be relocated, and a lot of equipment will be updated or replaced. I'm not clear on the timetable, but it sure sounds like it's going to be a big project. I've heard that we may actually have to work from the old tower at some point while the heaviest work happens. I've been up in the old tower, but I've never worked traffic from there. It definitely has a different view of the airport, and there are more areas that controllers can't see. If we wait until the end of the summer, when traffic traditionally plummets, things oughta be easier. With the cost of fuel putting a lot of pressure on the airlines (along with the rest of us), the post-Labor Day fall-off in traffic may be much more than we're accustomed to.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to find a viable exit strategy. My spring bids to Dallas Love and DFW towers have both been unsuccessful, along with the supervisor bid and cancelled TM (traffic management, or flow control) job here. My current efforts are focused on a supervisor job at New Orleans (MSY), and a new bid for DFW tower. I've also bid on the re-issued TM job here, but I'm not holding my breath: they've cancelled it twice already. I know
that they say the third time's the charm, but that's not FAA policy. I'm a little more hopeful about the DFW tower job this time around, as this bid doesn't have any move money attached to it. That right there will discourage a lot of prospective bidders. The story I heard from a friend in Dallas is that the previous bid, which did have move money, was filled with selections from the Metroplex area, which wouldn't have even qualified for move money. Ironically, LAX has its own bid out right now, offering terms that are pretty lucrative by current FAA standards. By the terms of the bid, bidders from outside will be getting move money, raises, and bonuses that total more than what those of us who are already here are getting. There was some discussion that we maybe ought to all apply for our own jobs - I wouldn't mind a $25K bonus, and think how quick the certification process would be.

I'm also looking at ways that I can improve my chances of being selected. I'm already certified as a CIC (controller-in-charge) and OJTI (instructor). A year of staff time would be nice, but I haven't managed to snag a temporary staff position, though not for lack of trying. There doesn't seem any chance of that changing soon, as here at LAX we've got three guys who are medically disqualified working downstairs right now, two of them long term. Other options would be for me to finish a four-year college degree (or higher), get a CFI (flight instructor rating), and/or earn an airline dispatcher's certificate. None of these would help me on any of the jobs I've already bid, nor do I expect that any of them would actually come in useful on the job.

1 comment:

  1. Since air traffic control is a government concern, the tower will be remodeled during the Christmas season after all eligible controllers have retired, and no trainees are yet certified.