July 28, 2013 - For many years the first welcome that pilots arriving at Oshkosh receive is from FAA controllers. It is tradition that the tower controller greets each landing pilot with those magic words, "Welcome to Oshkosh." And I am so happy that the controllers are here again to welcome us all.
We have made it very clear that EAA believes that controlling traffic for AirVenture Oshkosh is a fundamental part of the FAA mission. Separating traffic in crowded airspace is what the FAA is tasked to do no matter if that crowded airspace is at O'Hare, LaGuardia, or during AirVenture Oshkosh.
That why we disagree with FAA leadership, who has decided to charge EAA nearly $450,000 to cover the expense of providing the more than 80 controllers needed to supervise traffic flow during the Oshkosh week. EAA members have asked their congressmen and senators to intervene on our behalf and convince the FAA that providing air traffic separation for any very busy airspace is the FAA's core mission.
But I want to make it crystal clear that our disagreement with the FAA is entirely with the top leadership of the agency in Washington, not controllers. The controllers working traffic here and across the country have absolutely nothing to do with setting FAA policy.
The controllers invited me to their pre-Oshkosh brat fry on Friday evening, and it was great to spend time with them. Many are pilots, and all are general aviation enthusiasts. They actually compete to be selected to work Oshkosh because so many more controllers want to come here than there are slots available.
Every controller I spoke with told me how much they enjoy working with pilots coming and going here at Oshkosh. They enjoy the unique challenges of moving so many airplanes. And they love the variety of airplanes they see here every day.
Each controller also told me that visiting with people here at Oshkosh between their duty periods is an annual highlight. They exchange flying stories, talk about where they are from, and immerse themselves in the whole Oshkosh experience. In other words, they are like you and me. They love airplanes and the people who fly, build, and restore them.
Even though all controllers are very experienced, they must start over as rookies at Oshkosh. Every year a small number of rookies are included in the group so they can learn the unique procedures the FAA and EAA have developed to move so many airplanes safely. It takes at least a couple years for a controller to gain the experience necessary to be fully qualified on a position at Oshkosh.
I admire the dedication and skill of these men and woman, and I know you do, too. We have welcomed the controllers every year with open arms, and we admire what they do, and how they make Oshkosh possible.
This year is no different. These are the same dedicated controllers we have always had and they deserve our respect and gratitude. Anyone who blames or makes comments to controllers here about Washington policy is out of line, and definitely out of bounds of the EAA spirit.
The FAA controllers are the first to welcome pilots to Oshkosh, and I want all of us to give them the same big welcome we always have. Oshkosh just couldn't function the way it does without their skill and dedication.
Welcome to Oshkosh to everyone in a pink shirt. And thank you, again.