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Contracting out of Air Traffic Controllers Deadly Mistake -- NATCA Urges Congress to Review Contracting Out - (7/21/1997)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The mid air collision at Meigs Field causes the nation's leading advocate for air traffic controllers to recommend the U.S. Congress immediately halt the contracting out of so-called low level air traffic control facilities.

Safety is a distant second to cost savings at air traffic control facilities contracted out to private companies, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said today. "If history is a guide, the Federal Aviation Administration will defend its decision to turn aviation safety over to bottom line oriented corporations for the sole purpose of cost savings," NATCA Executive Vice President Mike McNally said.

NATCA has long raised concerns to the FAA, Congress and administration about safety at contracted out, low activity towers. "NATCA's two foremost issues are staffing and the amount of training received by contracted out controllers," McNally said. "When the FAA operated Meigs Field, eight controllers and one manager were required to handle air traffic. Today, there are three controllers and one manager. An FAA air traffic controller is trained for a year to a year and a half before he or she is a full performance controller. Under Midwest Air Traffic Control Services, a controller may be certified after only 18 hours of training. This, NATCA believes, is a severe deficiency!"

Most contracted out controllers also work part time, rather than full time. This lack of experience is an obvious handicap for men and women trying to separate aircraft in busy traffic times, McNally said.

"NATCA recommends Congress re-evaluate the contract tower program and mandate the FAA absorb all privately operated facilities back into its purview - including the contract personnel already employed. Any cost savings derived comes primarily from staffing," McNally said. "Lives should not be at the expense of bottom line profits."


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