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Relations between controllers and FAA thawing

Could it be that peace may be breaking out in the nation's air traffic control towers?

For the entire eight years of the Bush administration, relations between the managment of the Federal Aviation Administration and the union representing air traffic controllers could be described -- without exaggeration -- as toxic.

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FAA managers and union leaders engaged in public hostilities. Negotiations went nowhere, and management imposed work rules unilaterally. Controllers voted with their feet, retiring at much faster rates than projected and leaving control towers understaffed.

It was a mess along the lines of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, minus only Hurricane Katrina.

Now there are signs the breach is being mended. Instead of recrimination, the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association are in mediation. President Obama has nominated a new head of the agency, Randy Babbitt, who has been well received by controllers.

Babbitt's confirmation for a five-year term Thursday night brought a statement of congratulations from  union President Patrick Forrey that would have been unimaginable just a few months ago.

I don't think it matters if you're a Democrat, a Republican or an independent: An end to civil war in the FAA is good news for the flying public. I want the people guiding my plane to a landing to be happy, well-rested and at peace with their bosses.

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