An Absurd Sense of Priorities

Three years ago the FAA managers decided it was high time to fix what they apparently saw as some of the “major” problems facing the organization.

Those problems included such weighty issues as how controllers dressed and whether or not they ate food in the control room.

FAA managers decided that air traffic controllers were no longer the responsible employees that had previously been tasked with and trusted to work autonomously keeping airplanes safely apart.  Instead they began treating controllers as irresponsible children who didn’t even have the good sense to know when they could put a bite of food into their mouths.

Overnight food in the control room became a major safety issue at my facility and was banned outright, with the exception of small snacks distributed by a manager.

Never mind the fact that food had never been involved or mentioned in any operational error or incident.  Regardless, the managers targeted food as a possible contributing factor to errors, and stated that the reason for the policy was to reduce distractions in the control room which could contribute to operational errors.

So for three years food was banned from the control room.

Once controllers got a contract the food in the control room issue was revisited.

Here’s the new policy:

MINNEAPOLIS ARTCC POLICY

FOR FOOD IN THE CONTROL ROOM

After discussion with the ZMP management team and NATCA, a new food policy will take effect beginning on January 24, 2010.  It is the expectation of both parties that all employees will strive to keep the DSR control room a clean and hygienic workplace.  If it is deemed that a specific instance involving food is disruptive, distracting, messy, or presents an unsafe situation, Front Line Managers shall take the necessary action to terminate the problem.  It is not the intent of this policy to allow meals, smorgasbords, or buffets in the areas.

Types of food permitted in the operational areas:

Cookies/Bars/Breads

Meat/Cheese Trays

Crackers

Donuts

Bagels w/ Cream Cheese

Potato Chips

Fruit/Vegetable Items

Ice Cream Bars

Candy

Individual Snacks

Types of food and other items NOT permitted include, but are not limited to:

Sandwiches

Pizza

Food that requires a utensil for consumption

Electric Appliances

Sunflower Seeds and Peanuts

Any questions about other types of acceptable food items shall be directed to the OMIC.

Apparently sandwiches and pizza have been deemed detrimental to air safety, but bagels with cream cheese are not…

Any questions about food acceptability is supposed to be directed to the OMIC.  At least one of our OMICs was apparently too busy to notify the DEN about a NORDO aircraft back in October (Northwest 188), but they now have the added responsibility to make interpretations of the food policy.

The new policy ensures that if food “presents an unsafe situation, Front Line Managers shall take the necessary action to terminate the problem.”

I feel safer already.

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