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Senator Lautenberg and New Jersey Air Traffic Controllers Warn That Staffing Crisis Could Lead to Delays, Congestion - (5/14/2004)

Call for FAA and Congressional Action to Address Problem

NEWARK, N.J. – Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Newark Tower Air Traffic Controller Russ Halleran said today that without action from Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration to address a worsening staffing shortage, the result will be delays, congestion and a decreased margin for safety.

“Our only goal is to make sure that passengers get home safely. And that requires having the right number of controllers watching our skies,” said Halleran, who also serves as the local chapter president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. The FAA-authorized staffing total for Newark Tower is 40, but currently only 29 certified professional controllers are on staff. Of those, six are eligible to retire in five years. “Given that it can take up to five years to train a controller at certain facilities, with not everyone making the cut, Congress and the FAA need to act now.”

Halleran described the effects of understaffing. The shortage of controllers often results in the combining of control positions in the tower, resulting in the potential of jeopardizing safety with fewer eyes on the runways and taxiways and more time spent juggling multiple responsibilities.

"I wish we were here announcing more safety and security personnel for Newark-Liberty. Unfortunately, President Bush has ignored these shortages that this and literally dozens of other airports across the country are facing," said Senator Lautenberg. "The impending shortage of air traffic controllers is a significant security concern, and the flying public deserves better from the federal government."

Added Halleran: “Air traffic controllers at Newark and across the country will do all we can to help passengers get through the upcoming busy summer travel season and beyond, but we cannot do it alone,” he stated.

Newark is not alone. The FAA itself anticipates a national shortage of up to 50 percent in the next 10 years. That means that 1,000 controllers will need to be brought into the system each year to meet demand.

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