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Air Traffic Controllers Warn That Staffing Shortage Could Lead to Delays, Congestion, Safety Concerns - (7/21/2004)

WASHINGTON – As the FAA conducts a series of information sessions today to address the looming air traffic control staffing crisis, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) continued to warn the public and lawmakers that our nation is facing a staffing shortage of major concern in the coming years and again stressed that thousands of new controllers need to be hired and trained.

“The consequences of inaction are dire,” said NATCA President John Carr. “Without adequate numbers of certified controllers we cannot increase system capacity and safely meet the needs of our nation’s travelers. Instead we will have fewer eyes watching crowded skies, and that will lead to congestion, delays, and yes, safety concerns. The price of inaction is too high, and frankly unacceptable to us.”

Carr noted that the timing is particularly critical given tomorrow’s expected vote in the House Appropriations Committees authorizing funding for the FAA and other transportation-related agencies. In the Senate, a bipartisan group of Senate committee members have asked their colleagues to give $14 million to the FAA to begin the critical hiring process.

“We are pleased that the FAA has joined us in discussing this looming crisis and we urge the Agency to ask Congress to address this problem now. It takes up to five years to train a controller and not everyone makes the cut,” Carr said . “We cannot afford to wait on staffing any longer.”

The FAA anticipates a national shortage of up to 50 percent in the next 10 years. One thousand controllers will need to be brought into the system each year to meet demand.

Carr added, “We have the safest, most efficient air traffic control system in the world. We cannot afford to put this system at risk by closing our eyes to a very real problem with very real consequences.”

Towers across the country are facing shortage. Examples include:

• Chicago, where 44 certified professional controllers have been lost in the last five years and operational errors increased from an average of 31 per year before the shortage to 71 per year now.

• Las Vegas, where 56 certified professional controllers are authorized but only 47 are on hand, with another 6 eligible to retire in the next year and 15 by 2007.

• Miami, where 279 controllers are authorized but only 260 are on hand, and only 216 of these are able to work.

• Philadelphia, where 109 controllers are authorized but only 88 are at the facility, and only 65 of these are fully certified.

• Los Angeles, where 309 are authorized and only 219 certified controllers are on hand.

• Newark, where 40 controllers are authorized and there are only 29 working. Of these, 6 are eligible to retire in the next five years.

• Cincinnati, where 75 of 78 authorized controllers are working, but where 6 will retire before the end of this year.

If you would like information about the air traffic control staffing issue in your area, please contact Dan Hubbard at (202) 828-8877.

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