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Not Again: FAA Technicians and Air Traffic Controllers Express Frustration With Persistent Power Outages - (7/22/2005)

CONTACT: Jessica Hoffman, PASS, 202.293.7277
                    Doug Church, NATCA, 202.220.9802

Outdated Equipment Threatens Safety of Air Travel

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Another power outage occurred in the air traffic control tower at Philadelphia International Airport during the early hours of July 21. This latest power outage, the second in less than two months, represents a repeated failure of FAA policy to address serious threats to aviation safety said the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) and National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) today.

On June 4, a major power outage affected the single power line to the air traffic control tower at Philadelphia International Airport. That power line was over 25 years old, in substandard condition and in use well past its intended life span of 15 to 20 years. To make matters worse, instead of replacing the power line, the agency spliced the cables as a remedy after the first incident. This is a viable temporary solution, but it has been over a month since the first outage and the faulty power line still remains.

"This latest outage, so soon after the June incident, is disconcerting. We're seeing more and more outages around the country this summer and the problems are only bound to get worse as the volume of air traffic increases," said Tom Brantley, national president of PASS, the union representing FAA technicians and safety inspectors. Brantley went on, "Using vital equipment, such as power cables, long after their intended lifespan is a gamble we cannot afford to take."

Unlike the earlier power outage incident where there was a full ground stop and diverted flights, the impact of the latest outage was minimal since it occurred during off-peak traffic hours.

"The FAA needs to start making the necessary investments in the latest generation technology to keep the system safe and efficient," said John Carr, president of NATCA. "Instead of investing in modernization the FAA has shunned cooperation with air traffic controllers, shutting down important safety programs and making vital decisions without the input of the men and women who know the air traffic control system best. Air traffic controllers, technicians and safety inspectors are asking the FAA to work with us, honestly and in good faith, to ensure the goal we can all agree on: the continued safety of the flying public."

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