Hosted annually by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Communicating for Safety (CFS) is the aviation industry's leading conference focusing on safety, technology and building relationships with other aviation professionals. This three-day conference is unique in that it's the only conference of its kind to focus specifically on the air traffic needs of all members of the aviation community who are affected by the National Airspace System (NAS).
CFS started as an event with just 40 attendees in 1999 and has now become an internationally attended conference, with over 1,500 aviation industry leaders and representatives coming together to improve safety.
Included throughout the conference are presentations and forums given by top aviation professionals that concentrate on how to further improve communication and relationships among pilots, controllers and other professionals with a vested interest in aviation safety. Attendees learn about various topics, which include the effects weather and other environmental factors have on aviation safety, new technology and programs, professional standards, information sharing and safety reporting systems, pilot-controller communications, human factors, and modernization efforts. Moderated panels with aviation stakeholders provide opportunities for CFS attendees to openly ask questions and discuss their concerns.
Numerous aviation leaders and stakeholders have attended CFS since its inception. CFS 2012 marked the first appearances by both FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who spoke about the future of the National Airspace System, their profound appreciation for air traffic controllers and for NATCA always being on the forefront of aviation safety. CFS 2013 boasted keynote speaker Deborah Hersman, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman at that time, who praised NATCA's members for their dedication to excellence. CFS 2014 featured remarks from IFATCA President & CEO Patrik Peters, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker, and Professional Risk Manager Gordon Graham. It also featured panels that included many domestic and international aviation leaders, including FAA Air Traffic Organization Chief Operating Officer Teri Bristol, RTCA President Margaret Jenny, National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen, NAV CANADA President and CEO John Crichton, Civil Air Australia President Daryl Hickey, Canadian Air Traffic Controllers Association President Greg Myles, and more. CFS 2014 also saw the return of FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, who made special remarks during the annual Archie League Medal Of Safety Awards banquet.
CFS 2014 was the start of "Build Your Own Agenda," allowing people to choose a path of safety education during the afternoon of the last day of the conference. Topics attendees can choose to learn about vary from year-to-year, but in 2016 included: human factors in air traffic control, partnership for safety, handling helicopter emergencies, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, safety reporting, aircraft accident investigation and litigation, collaboration, air traffic training, and unmanned aircraft systems.
CFS 2015 saw the largest and most diverse attendance in the conference's history, including in it speakers. Keynote addresses included those from the Honorable Christopher Hart, NTSB Chairman, FAA Assistant Administrator for NextGen Edward Bolton, Dr. James Fallon, and NBC News Correspondent Tom Costello, the first member of the media to ever address CFS. CFS attendees also welcomed presentations from conference favorites Gordon Graham, Professional Risk Manager, and Reed Timmer, Extreme Storm Chaser and Meteorologist. The 2015 event also featured a first-ever fireside chat between NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
CFS 2016 welcomed keynote addresses from Human Factors and Crew Resource Management Expert Dr. Jerry Cockrell, Risk Management Expert Gordon Graham, now former FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker and Captain Al Haynes. The 2016 conference included a wide array of panels, speakers, sponsors, and conference exhibitors. Panels covered many important aviation safety-related topics, including funding of the NAS, pilot-controller communications, challenges of integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the NAS, aviation weather, air traffic control modernization in the United States and Europe, remote towers, improving safety through collaboration, and a discussion among the leadership of international air traffic controllers' unions.
In addition to the speakers and panels, CFS now features special exhibitor presentations during conference breaks, as well as interactive social walls, showing conference attendees' posts from Twitter and Instagram, displayed next to main conference stage and throughout the exhibitor areas.
Each year, CFS concludes on a high note, with the Archie League Medal of Safety Awards. The only award of its kind, the Archie League Medal of Safety Award recognizes NATCA members who, in the previous year, handle life-saving air traffic situations with cool, calm professionalism. Though if you were to ask the award winners about it, most would simply say they “were just doing their job.”
CFS brings together a worldwide array of aviation professionals to discuss the current state of the U.S. and international aviation systems, and how industry leaders and representatives can improve safety. Those who should attend this conference include air traffic controllers, general aviation and commercial pilots, airport executives, government leaders and aviation industry leaders.