One of the things I tried to do in this book was to give a 360 degree view of why this strike came about, why nearly 12,000 people risked not only their jobs, but their careers by walking out, and why several thousand of their coworkers did not join them. Here are reactions to the book from one who struck and one who did not.
From Denny Harris, who was a "Horse" (a controller who participated in PATCO's 1970 sickout) at LA Center in Palmdale, Calif., and leader of PATCO at Seattle Center from which he was fired for his participation in the 1981 strike:
First off, Thank you for writing this book. As a former president of
Seattle Center (1972-1974) I was the one who won a successful
de-certifying effort, followed by certification of PATCO at that
facility. I was a HORSE in 1970, and a strike leader in '81. Over time
it has been increasingly hard to explain our efforts to family and
especially friends of the whats and whys of our strike. This book
explains what went on extremely well. Again thank you for your efforts
in this book, brought back a lot of memories of times and friends.
Denny Harris Class of '81.
Denny also forwarded to me a clipping (left) of himself and two of his co-workers at Seattle Center receiving the FAA's "We Point with Pride" award for saving the lives of a husband, wife, and infant child in an air emergency. He's the guy on the left. This clip gives you a sense of the talent that was lost in the mass firing. If you'd like to read the clip, click here.
And from Alvin DeVane, retired air traffic controller, who did not strike in '81:
Professor McCartin, I just finished reading Collision Course and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it.
I was hired by the FAA in 1974 and was a journeyman controller
in San Antonio in August of 1981. After much soul searching, I chose
not to strike. Your book brought back memories and feelings I had not
felt in a long time. From what I know and remember, you were right on
target in Collision Course.
Everyone who was a part of that experience has their own story to
tell, and like a lot of others, I too wrote about my personal
experience. After the strike was over, I eventually moved into
management and spent the last 10 years of my career as the manager of
Addison Tower, a VFR faciity in the Dallas Fort Worth Metro area. After
Pres Clinton approved the re-hire of the striking controllers, I called
the Southwest Region and said I would take any and all they wanted to
send me and even tried to get a friend of mine who walked, rehired at
I think the most significant thing I learned from those times was
to avoid all the pettiness between the union and management. I am proud
to say that when I was manager I rarely had labor problems and got along
well with the controllers and my FACREP.
After 32 1/2 years, I turned 56 and the FAA said I was too old to
work traffic. I always stayed current and worked position along side of,
as well as training new tower controllers even when I was a facility
manager. I guess I was always just a controller
at heart, because the thought of coming to the tower and not being able
to put on a headset and talk to airplanes was enough to make me retire....
Well, that is probably a lot more than you ever wanted know about
me :-) but you should know that I have started calling all my old FAA
friends and insisting that they buy a copy of Collision Course!
Let me conclude by saying thank you so very much for writing such
an outstanding telling of the events that indeed changed America.