Welcome to Communicating For Safety


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. 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 began in 1999 with just 40 attendees; it has now become an internationally attended conference, with over 1,500 aviation industry leaders and representatives coming together to discuss and improve safety.


NATCA President Paul Rinaldi opened CFS 2016 with a strong keynote address about the need to fight complacency and improve the status quo of the NAS. With CFS 2016 following the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Association’s annual conference, Rinaldi said it could not be more clear that airspace systems are “rapidly becoming one gigantic, dynamic, global aviation system,” and that we will have to modernize as a global airspace one way or another. He commended the United States’ workforce for one of the safest air travel years on record in the country, but cautioned that while they have done a good job, now is not the time for complacency.


“Good enough is the enemy of great,” emphasized Rinaldi. “We must look to the future to ensure we are keeping up with growing capacity and modernizing with the rest of the world.”


Rinaldi discussed many of the challenges the U.S. NAS and workforce face today, including inadequate air traffic controller staffing levels, aging infrastructure, implementing advancing technology, adding new users to the system, modernizing equipment and procedures, and obtaining a stable, predictable funding stream. Rinaldi urged NATCA members to educate themselves, learn more about the challenges and take a stand for safety. He commended the conference attendees, telling them that by attending the conference, they are taking a role to learn about the issues the nation’s aviation system faces, and helping educate others about the issues.


“We must prepare for growth; we must protect the workers and by doing so protect the system as a whole,” Rinaldi said, in closing. “The choice is ours: stand up and build a better tomorrow! We must be proactive, strategic, and professional with addressing the changes to our National Airspace System.”


CFS 2016 contained a diverse array of panels, speakers, sponsors and conference exhibitors. Panels covered many important aviation safety-related topics, including funding of the National Airspace System, pilot-controller communications, challenges of integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the NAS, aviation weather, with a special introduction by Air Traffic Organization Chief Operating Office Teri Bristol, 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.


The 2016 safety conference also welcomed keynote addresses from Human Factors and Crew Resource Management Expert Dr. Jerry Cockrell, Risk Management Expert Gordon Graham, former FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker, and Captain Al Haynes. Additionally, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert specially addressed the conference on the morning of Tuesday, March 22, after learning about the attacks at Brussels Airport in Belgium. They had the conference observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims and their families.


CFS 2016 also featured a ”Build Your Own Agenda” portion, added to the conference line-up in 2014, allowing people to choose a path of safety education based on their individual interests during the afternoon of the last day of the conference. Topics attendees chose from to learn about included human factors in air traffic control, partnership for safety, handling helicopter emergencies, ADS-B, safety reporting, aircraft accident investigation and litigation, collaboration, air traffic training, and unmanned aircraft systems.


In addition to the speakers and panels, CFS featured special exhibitor presentations during conference breaks, as well as interactive social walls, displaying posts from conference attendees on Twitter and Instagram, shown next to main conference stage and throughout the exhibitor areas.


The conference closed with NATCA’s annual Archie League Medal of Safety Awards banquet. Named after the first air traffic controller, Archie League, the awards honor the lifesaving work of NATCA’s members in the previous year. For the third consecutive year, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta attended the banquet and gave a keynote address.