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Controllers Urge Blakey to Come Clean about Real "State of FAA" - (11/14/2005)

NATCA Calls on Administrator to Answer Five Key Questions in Speech Tomorrow

WASHINGTON – Federal Aviation Administration employees will hear a rosy picture of the nation’s aviation system painted by Administrator Marion Blakey in her annual “State of the FAA” address tomorrow. But air traffic controllers are calling on the administrator to address five important questions that affect the safety of the system, the integrity of the FAA and the agency’s relationship with its own employees.

Over the past year, the FAA has routinely answered similar questions to the ones below by pointing to ongoing contract negotiations between the FAA and air traffic controllers. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association hopes that during her “State of the FAA” speech, Blakey will answer these questions substantively instead of politically:

Question 1 – With the recent spate of runway incursions around the country, why is the FAA only installing critical ground radar equipment at 16 airports despite its earlier commitments to install the equipment in more than twice as many places? Does the administrator believe the country should have a two-tiered system of safety where some airports deserve safe runways while others don’t? And why will it take six years to install this technology? Won’t that potentially be too late?

Question 2 – Why is the FAA not adequately staffing air traffic facilities across the country, even as air traffic increases to record levels? There are 1,000 fewer controllers than there were two years ago. Why won’t the agency admit what controllers already know, which is that the FAA is losing more controllers than it is hiring and training, putting the agency in a continuing net-loss staffing situation?

Question 3 – Why is the FAA refusing to discuss critical safety issues in contract negotiations with controllers? Though air traffic controllers know the aviation system best, FAA management recently refused to discuss a range of critical safety issues during contract negotiations.

Question 4 – Why has the FAA, and Blakey herself, taken to publicly denying serious safety problems around the country while secretly fixing them behind closed doors? The latest example is in the Washington, D.C.-area, where a radar failure made planes invisible on controllers’ radar scopes. The FAA publicly denied it was a real problem, but meanwhile brought in a small army to fix the very real danger.

Question 5 – Why did the FAA spend nearly $300 million for a private contractor during bungled hurricane relief efforts without proper control or oversight? Why hasn’t the Administrator addressed this serious waste and mismanagement?

“We are calling on the administrator to answer each of these questions substantively or risk painting an incomplete, distorted picture of the ‘State of the FAA,’” NATCA President John Carr said. “It’s time to confront these issues of safety and FAA mismanagement before we have to face the consequences of inaction and denial.”

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