Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

An ATC update

Kelvin Vercoe, NZALPA’s ATC Director, shares news of recent international ATC events where NZALPA has been represented. 

Recently two important international ATC events were attended by Mike Bishop, Jeremy Thompson and me. Communicating For Safety (CFS) and the biannual Global ATC Alliance (GATCA) meeting were both held in the United States. 

Communicating For Safety Conference

CFS is without doubt the pinnacle of ATC aviation conferences globally. Organised and hosted by the United States National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), with 1500 attendees, the calibre of guest speakers and quality content in the numerous panels presents attendees with aspirational but attainable personal and workplace goals for improving the safety of the airspace system we all work in. 

‘Every day is a Training Day’ was the focus and title of this year’s three day conference.  

What is interesting to note is that the attendees are not only NATCA union members, representatives, and other employees from the aviation sector, but also senior Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) and airline managers, government officials, and many other aviation industry representatives and international guests. 

The newly appointed Director of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Steve Dickson, attended and sat with Paul Rinaldi, the President of NATCA for a ‘fireside chat’ about his plan for the FAA going forward. They covered the United States federal shutdown earlier this year, ongoing and secure Federal funding for ATC wages and training during future shutdowns and at all other times, the Boeing 737 MAX grounding and many other topical issues.

I was privileged to be asked to present on the ‘International Collaboration’ panel, which included our Alliance President Paul Winstanley (United Kingdom), the head of Nav Canada’s ATC Operations Rudy Kellar, and three ATC industry general managers.   

One of those managers was Fran Hill, Senior Vice President for Transportation Solutions at United States technology company Leidos. Fran leads the Leidos team implementing Airways New Zealand’s new Air Traffic Management platform, Skyline X.

As you may know from our own NZALPA Conference ATC panel in June, New Zealand lags far behind the North American union/employer relationships, with a long road and some determined hard work ahead of us to see improvement even in the short to medium term. 

That being so, my input was very matter of fact about collaboration with Airways or any industry players in New Zealand, but it was an honest representation of the state of play here.

I also highlighted that with the associations and friendships we have formed with the other unions in the Alliance we can see light at the end of the tunnel in terms of where we could possibly end up if we continue to offer assistance to improve what we can, when we can, in working towards a more collaborative relationship with Airways. It is promising to know that there are people within Airways already working with us and wanting to forge a path towards a more inclusive and professional working relationship.

Not surprisingly, the aviation industry representatives were very interested in creating formal relationships with the Alliance as they see potential benefits by involving us directly in their projects, and in research and development, whilst working alongside their customers (our employers). 

I believe they recognise the expertise of ATC’s (our union members) in the six representative countries and see the potential benefits coming from us convincing our members to become more involved in changing and developing technologies. 

CFS also has a large area where industry stands display and show off their products and innovations. The Alliance also had a stand. As a result of the industry interactions and the CFS collaboration panel, another major organisation, the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA), invited the Alliance to present a similar panel to their largely industry audience in Washington, DC. 

Global ATC Alliance meeting (The Alliance) 

Following our success at CFS, first on the agenda was discussion on attending the ATCA Conference. It was confirmed that Paul Winstanley of the United Kingdom and President of The Alliance, Paul Rinaldi, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and Dave Doerkson, Regional Vice President of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, would attend with NZALPA’s Jeremy Thompson, Vice President of The Alliance. 

Coincidentally it was to begin on 20 October, also the International Day of the Air Traffic Controller. I hope you all celebrated. 

I unreservedly believe our attendance is in the best interests of not only our members, but also for the majority of air traffic controllers worldwide who are represented by the six Alliance member unions.

Not only does participating in the panel raise the profiles of NZALPA and The Alliance amongst the movers and shakers of the aviation industry; it is also an opportunity to have one on one time with the same people off stage to further the goals and strategy of The Alliance.

Those goals and our mission statement were further defined and refined at the Global ATC Alliance meeting.

There is now a focus on building relationships with industry to influence relationships and collaboration with our employers. This simple yet effective inclusion in our focus will reap real benefits for all member unions. The Alliance promotional flyer (see below) now advertises our mission statement and strategy. 

Both events were extremely beneficial to our future collaborations as a national union and professional association, and as a group of likeminded and focused industrial unions internationally – The Alliance. 

New Zealand’s air traffic controllers and NZALPA stand proudly in solidarity with our international sisters and brothers in Air Traffic Control, and we are beginning to make an impact. We will ultimately end up making a difference for ATC globally, both industrially and professionally, and importantly I believe this will help us locally.


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