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Cruel Irony: President to Land at Seattle's Boeing Field, One of 69 Airports on White House Chopping Block for Privatization - (8/22/2003)

CONTACT: Doug Church, 202.220.9802, (cell) 301.346-8245

WASHINGTON – Air Force One will be cleared to land at Seattle’s Boeing Field later today by experienced, highly-skilled federal air traffic controllers. But if President Bush has his way in Congress next month, Boeing Field will be contracted out to the lowest bidder, jeopardizing safety and costing taxpayers more.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr issued the following statement in advance of the President’s visit to the Great Northwest:

“Our controllers take great pride and responsibility in directing Air Force One to a safe landing. But it’s important for the President to realize that if his administration has its way, the next time he lands at Boeing Field, the Federal Aviation Administration controllers who will ensure his safe landing today – and 200,000 other takeoffs and landings this year – will be replaced by controllers hired by private companies whose bottom line is profit, not safety.”

“Of the 69 air traffic control towers on the White House chopping block, 11 rank among the 50 busiest airports in the country, according to FAA statistics. Boeing Tower is the 42nd busiest in the country. For those in the administration that claim the 69 towers in question are rural, low-activity, visual flight rules facilities, let me inform the President that he will be getting a wonderful view of the very urban area around Seattle today on his approach to Boeing Field.”

“We also would like to express to the administration our grave concern that the FAA is trading privatization immunity for votes in advance of next month’s Congressional action on the FAA Reauthorization conference report. We can have an open and honest debate about privatization. But backroom political deals for certain states that leave others vulnerable should not be tolerated. Why should you only have safe skies if your member of Congress is a committee chairman?”

“Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, exempted his own two towers from the FAA bill’s privatization language. The Oklahoma Congressional delegation says it has received assurances from the FAA that their tower at Riverside Airport in Tulsa will not be privatized. Furthermore, reports indicate that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has said that the five towers from Arizona on the White House list will now not be privatized.”

“Large majorities in both houses of Congress had previously voted against any effort to privatize air traffic control. Why the White House undermined Congressional will and the will of the American public remains a mystery.”

“We are proud to take care of your safety today and every day you step into Air Force One. Let’s guarantee safety to every passenger every day and maintain our current air traffic control system which is the safest, most efficient in the world.”

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