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Meet Rich Santa

Rich Santa is the seventh President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and prides himself on working tirelessly to represent all NATCA members, day in and day out.

Rich understands that the majority of our workforce is tired of working increased traffic volume over six-day workweeks and ten-hour days—with no end in sight—which is why he pushed so hard to update the severely outdated 2010 CRWG staffing numbers. Through legislation, this change will effectively remove FAA Finance from the Controller Workforce Plan (CWP), which is reported to Congress annually. Rich also pushed for legislation that will ensure the FAA commits to hiring the maximum number of air traffic controllers to effectively address appropriate staffing levels throughout the National Airspace System (NAS). 

Rich Santa Headshot
Rich Santa NATCA President

Rich has made it a priority that the FAA funds ABACUS, a state-of-the-art, 3-D, web-based application that will replace all legacy terminal traffic counting and validation programs, including the necessity to count manually in most facilities.

For the first time ever, ABACUS will provide enroute and Combined Control Facilities (CCF) Traffic Count Indexes (TCIs) based on actual airspace and radar returns using the most robust data streams ever assembled by the FAA. Each facility will have a unique adaptation based upon their operation, and an interface to regularly validate their numbers and generate a multitude of personalized traffic count reports and diagnostics.

Preliminary testing of ABACUS at terminal facilities has yielded 100 percent accuracy, and Rich was present in late June for the first-ever validation at an enroute facility (Atlanta ARTCC-ZTL) resulting in a precision rate of 99.7 percent. The implementation of this software will ensure that hard-working NATCA members are accurately compensated for the front-line work they do every day.

Fresh Ideas

Rich thinks outside of the box, such as when he successfully engaged the Agency in discussions to increase OJTI premium pay from 10 to 20 percent. This pay increase was negotiated outside of the current collective bargaining agreement, and was recently extended for a second year.

From idea to reality, the inaugural NATCA Activism and Training Expo (ATX) was held in December 2022, successfully launching Rich’s vision to create a biennial event that would allow all members to invest in themselves and in turn strengthen our Union.

Scheduled opposite of the NATCA Convention, ATX gives members the opportunity to create personalized training courses, choosing from an array of condensed NATCA Academy classes. Attendees also get a comprehensive look at NATCA’s many committees and the numerous avenues that our members are able to become activists for their union.

A Strong Foundation to be a Strong Leader

Rich is originally from North Hills, Pa. and currently resides in Hagerstown, Md. He attended North Hills High School and afterward completed the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program at Community College of Beaver County James M. Johnson School of Aviation Science in Beaver Falls, Pa.

When he was a young man, he loved boxing and ice hockey, and was the goalie in his local league. As an adult, Rich developed a love for motocross and bikes weekly with his long-term girlfriend through the trails of Western Maryland and Virginia. An introverted critical thinker by nature, Rich enjoys playing competitive chess, and some of his most valuable time is spent in the quiet of his home with his girlfriend and his cats—though he does have a special place in his heart for his loyal K-9 companion, Keira.

Rich started his FAA career in 1997 at New York TRACON (N90) in Westbury, NY, and in 2001 transferred to Washington ARTCC (ZDC) where he was elected to his first NATCA volunteer role serving as Area Representative. He went on to serve four terms as Principal Facility Representative during the White Book and the Red Book.

Rich has served as the National Representative for WMT Scheduler, CRU-X, CEDAR, Falcon, and Automated Sign-In Sign-Out (A-SISO). He worked to establish an onboarding process for newly elected NATCA representatives, and has served as an instructor for the NATCA Academy. 

Rich served as the NATCA Eastern Regional Vice President from 2018-2021. During his tenure as RVP, Rich represented NATCA in many roles related to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that all NATCA members were safe at work while maintaining the efficiency of the National Airspace System (NAS). He was the lead negotiator for COVID-19 Flexible Schedules that allowed for social distancing. 

Rich was the Chair of the Internet Technology Committee (ITC) and recently developed the NATCA Election Support Committee (ESC) to assist facilities with their local elections. He served as a National Representative on numerous collaborative work groups including Air Traffic Operations Management System (ATOMS), the Collaborative Steering Committee (CSC), National Validation Team (NVT), the new traffic counting and pay level calculation program (ABACUS), and the National Centralized ERR Placement Team (NCEPT). Rich was also a member of the Grievance Review Team (GRT).

Rich is an FAA-certificated single-engine private pilot, and owns a 1969 Mooney which he flies out of Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR) in Washington County, Md. Though he swears by his M20F, if you catch him just right he’ll admit he likes the Cessna 152 better.