Hamilton: Class action: Justice for the friendly skies?
Prior to the Obama Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) partnered with 36 college aviation programs to provide the FAA with a pool of highly qualified applicants to take the examination to become air traffic controllers. The FAA also worked with the military to hire veterans with previous air traffic control experience. But the Obama Administration decided that neither the FAA’s College Training Initiative (CTI) Program nor the military were producing enough air traffic control examinees of color.
So, despite the fact of their earning four-year degrees from CTI-accredited universities, and despite their high scores on the FAA’s Air Traffic Selection & Training (AT-SAT) test, hundreds of aviation college graduates and veterans were told their test results were purged and they would have to reapply under new criteria that required only a high-school diploma and the passage of a “personality-biography” test. No previous aviation training was required.
The personality-biography test wanted to know if applicants had played “mid-night” basketball and how many other urban activities they had or had not engaged in. Clearly, a test designed to weed out applicants from rural/mountain America. When Congress got wind of this “psycho-babble” test that had nothing to do with aviation safety, the Obama Administration was forced to open a one-week window during which those who had not engaged in a sufficient number of urban activities were allowed to reapply. But, by that time, many of the aviation college graduates and military veterans had taken other jobs or switched to other careers. Quickly, the FAA snapped the window shut.
But wait. There is still hope for those rejected aviation college graduates and military veterans to become air traffic controllers. On behalf of between 2,000 and 3,500 highly qualified air traffic controller wannabes, the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) has filed a class-action law suit citing Adarand Constructors, Inc. vs. Pena in which the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal courts to apply “strict scrutiny in assessing the constitutionality of a government use of racial classifications.” In a concurring opinion, the late Justice Scalia wrote: “In the eyes of the government, there is just one race. It is American.”
The poster plaintiff for the MSLF class-action law suit is a young man with two B.S. degrees. Plus, he completed the CTI program and scored100-percent score on the AT-SAT. But the FAA sent him an e-mail saying that his application had been purged and he must reapply and take the personality-biography test. He failed the psycho-babble test.
It will take some time for the class-action law suit to reach a federal court with the power to apply Adarand vs. Pena and correct this injustice. It will take some time for members of this class to become air traffic controllers.
But, meanwhile, as I wrote satirically back on June 15, 2015: “So folks, sit back and relax and know that your flight is being controlled from the ground by people who are just learning about aviation and air traffic control with the fresh enthusiasm of beginners who have just learned something new and do not suffer from the, say, complacency of having studied air traffic control for four years of college or operated military control towers.”
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. In 2015, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Nebraska. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017). “Central View,” can also be seen at: http://www.central-view.com.
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