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Air Traffic Controllers Distribute Leaflets Nationwide, Warning of Looming Safety Concerns from Privatization - (12/20/2002)

NATCA President Says Air Safety Should Not Be Sold to the Lowest Bidder

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As hundreds of controllers distributed leaflets to passengers at airports around the nation, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said Friday that privatizing air traffic control could damage the world’s safest aviation system.

“Privatization will introduce a profit motive or other financial pressures into a system whose current imperative is safety,” said John Carr, president of NATCA, speaking at a news conference at National Airport. “We have seen this happen in other countries that have tried privatization, and we are determined to prevent it from happening here.”

At National and more than 75 large and small airports around the nation, off-duty air controllers handed out leaflets to passengers expressing their concerns about privatization. “The current system puts safety above everything in air traffic control,” said Carr. “Let’s keep it that way. Passenger safety is too important to be sold to the lowest bidder.”

In the last two years the Bush Administration has used language that raised the possibility of privatization of air traffic controllers. “Most recently, I was personally called by the FAA to inform me that air traffic control is going to be characterized as a commercial activity,” said Carr. “Commercial activity sure sounds a lot like privatization to me!”

Efforts in other countries to privatize their air traffic control system have been a failure. In England, near misses have gone up, delays specifically caused by air traffic control failures have gone up, and the government has been called upon for repeated bailouts. In Canada, staffing is only 75 percent of what is needed to operate the system and the increased user fees that have been assessed are still insufficient to cover the system’s deteriorating finances. In Australia, there have been increased passenger fees and serious concerns among controllers that financial pressures are compromising safety.

“I ask the President, the Secretary of the Transportation and the FAA Administrator to set the record straight,” said Carr. “They must make it clear that if federal employees are needed to ensure that bags are safe on the ground, federal employees are also needed to ensure that passengers are safe in the skies.”

Controllers planned to distribute leaflets Friday at more than 75 airports around the United States, including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, NC, Chicago – O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York – JFK, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington – Dulles & National.

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NATCA represents over 15,000 air traffic controllers throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and Guam, along with 5,000 other safety related aviation professionals. This nation's air traffic controllers ensure the safety of nearly one million aviation passengers per day - or almost 700 million people per year. For more information, visit www.natca.org

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