SCHENECTADY, N.Y. Floyd Curtin has been an air traffic controller at Mookie Wilson International Airport here for nearly twenty years, but he is more widely-known as “Rat Dog,” the “screen name” he uses for his blog “Politics, Sports & B.S.,” which he updates daily on blogsprout.com. “It’s a great release from the pressure of my job,” he says, before turning back to his microphone to scream “PULL UP CESSNA N7357H!” at an incoming private plane.
Curtin and air traffic controllers like him have been identified as a growing threat to aviation safety, since the easy access to computers and the internet that their profession provides distracts them from the split-second decisions they are often forced to make. “Some say that blogging is a threat to aviation safety, but I think most guys are conscientious about it,” says Madison, Wisconsin air traffic controller Jerry Dilba, before turning on his microphone to speak to a commercial flight from Chicago. “Would you mind circling for another half hour or so?” he asks politely, “We’re kind of busy right now.” He gets an “A-OK” from the pilot, then spell checks an article about this Sunday’s Green Bay Packers game before hitting the “publish” button, sending a “post” to the “internet” where it escapes the mundane world of quotation marks.
“Would you mind circling for a while? I’m in the middle of a post.”
Air traffic controllers say they are being unfairly singled out since, as Quad Cities Airport’s Mike Adamlik points out, “every dingbat in America with a computer on his desk is allowed to blog at work–why not us? Look at this crap here,” he adds, pointing to his screen which shows a post titled “Health Benefits of Smoking Crack in PJ’s Questioned” on a blog called “Gerbil News Network.” “This guy apparently thinks he’s funny,” he says with a dubious shake of his head.
While there has so far been no mid-air collision caused by a blogging air traffic controller, FAA officials say they are monitoring the situation and may issue a draft rule later this summer. “Blogging can become an obsession at which point it can infreter wthi a person’s jbo pfreformance,” said Deputy Administrator Darrell Collins in an email that he composed while updating his blog, “Extremely Stupid Stuff” on wordsmith.com. “At the sme time, it may be crovered by an cllective brgaining argeement, in which case not much we do about it.”