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NATCA Applauds House Subcommittee's Support for an Analysis of Separation Standards between Aircraft - (6/13/2001)

WASHINGTON – The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which has repeatedly called for a careful examination of separation standards between aircraft, received a major boost from the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee on Tuesday in its transportation spending bill.

While approving the annual funding bill for the Department of Transportation for the next fiscal year, the subcommittee provided $1 million “to begin a serious analysis and modeling of the potential to reduce separation standards between aircraft, a proposal raised by controllers in hearings this year.”

“We are very pleased and are looking forward to working with the subcommittee, Federal Aviation Administration and all interested parties on this issue,” NATCA President John Carr said. “We applaud the subcommittee’s serious consideration of our request to reexamine separation standards. This will go a long way to improving the capacity of the system while maintaining its standing as the safest in the world.”

Carr addressed separation standards before the subcommittee on March 15 as part of his “Top Five” list of things he would do to address the capacity and delay issues.

During that hearing, Carr told the subcommittee, “The current separation standards, which date back to the late 1940s and early 1950s, were basically agreed upon due to limitations in radar and limitations in equipment . . . Any marginal, fractional decrease in separation standards has to be measured against the litmus test of safety but could instantaneously free up unused capacity in the system.”

NATCA is not alone in its exploration of this issue. In April, Carr met with Professor John Hansman from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is also evaluating current separation standards. His data shows that while separation standards have remained unchanged, radar performance has improved five-fold.

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