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Administration Continues to Send Contradictory Message - (2/9/2004)

CONTACT: Doug Church, 202/220.9802, 301/346.8245 (cell)

MILWAUKEE – As Administration transportation officials tout their efforts to modernize Milwaukee’s air traffic control system here today, 800 miles away on Capitol Hill, sits the Administration’s proposed 2005 budget, which cuts the Federal Aviation Administration’s modernization budget by $400 million and further exposes a widening credibility gap.

“How is it possible to expect the country’s airports, like General Mitchell International Airport, to handle a three-fold increase in traffic, as proposed by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, while at the same time the Administration is cutting the FAA’s modernization budget by 16 percent?” inquired National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr. “We need to accelerate the modernization process and ensure we have enough qualified air traffic controllers ready to meet the Secretary’s goals, not budget cutbacks. We need actions, not contradictions.”

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, aviation industry groups and even public policy groups have criticized the proposed cuts from the FAA’s facilities and equipment budget.

While holding Milwaukee up as an example of the benefits of the new Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS), the FAA has simultaneously slowed the pace and scope of modernization nationwide. NATCA seriously questions the ability of the FAA to meet its original goal of installing STARS in all facilities, especially if the budget is cut.

“The flying public – and Congress – need to know if the FAA has a plan for ensuring that all air traffic control facilities receive STARS. If so, then the next question is when will this happen?” Carr said.

Facilities with aging equipment that are not currently scheduled for replacement, such as the terminal radar approach control facilities in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis and St. Louis, do not appear to be as high a priority as Milwaukee. In fact, the radar displays currently installed at each of these locations are out of memory and incapable of receiving a software upgrade.

“We must ensure that air traffic control equipment is the best it can be everywhere,” Carr remarked. “While it may be great to fly through Wisconsin, we want to make sure that flying continues to be safe across the country.”

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