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U.S. Reps. Poe and Filner Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Place Moratorium on the Consolidation of Air Traffic Control Facilities - (5/24/2007)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Air Traffic Controllers Association today applauds the introduction of H.R. 2443, the Federal Aviation Administration Facility Consolidation Moratorium Act of 2007. This is a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Representatives Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Bob Filner, D-Calif., that would place a moratorium on the consolidation of air traffic control facilities.  

H.R. 2443 comes on the heels of a strong bipartisan effort, led by Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., Filner, and Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to challenge the Federal Aviation Administration’s unsafe and unwise attempt to move the Palm Springs Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) to the Southern California TRACON. 

Consolidation is the combining and integrating of airspace, personnel, functions and equipment of separate terminal or en route facilities, all or in part, into a contiguous, unified operations complex. 

NATCA is not opposed to consolidation efforts where they make sense, as long as there is a transparent process and stakeholders are involved. However, NATCA President Patrick Forrey said the current FAA approach to consolidation is unwise because “the agency is completely rejecting any collaboration with controllers, pilots, local officials and other stakeholders. You cannot make these decisions in a closed FAA office, with no input from those whose lives you are directly affecting on such important issues like transferring control of airspace. Furthermore, the agency should avoid the appearance of putting cost savings ahead of what’s best for the safety of the system and the current flawed consolidation process only adds to this perception.” 

During the past 20 years, the FAA, NATCA, and affected stakeholders have successfully collaborated on eight major consolidations of terminal airspace: New York, Southern California, Chicago, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, Northern California, Atlanta, and the Baltimore/Washington/Virginia Tri-State (Potomac) Area. 

Consolidations can lead to increased efficiency, capacity, and savings to the taxpayers.  However, decisions on consolidation – which directly affect public safety – should not be limited to cost benefits alone.  The FAA also has an obligation to keep members of Congress, the public, airport operators, aviation operators, and other stakeholders informed of potential, planned, or pending agency efforts that could affect the safety and efficiency of airspace. A full risk-assessment and cost/benefit analysis must be performed and made public.  

“A moratorium is necessary until the FAA re-embarks on planning consolidations in the open and involving stakeholders,” Forrey said. 

Efforts by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, to halt the consolidation of the Southeast Regional Airport’s TRACON in Beaumont, Texas to Houston TRACON, and by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., to halt the consolidation of Little Rock TRACON to Memphis TRACON were also included in the Senate’s version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill. 

In Rep. Poe’s district, the FAA is moving forward with the consolidation of airspace from Beaumont to Houston TRACON, despite the agency’s very secret planning process and failure to include stakeholders, including Rep. Poe. The Beaumont consolidation will remove the Beaumont airspace from controllers familiar with the local area and give it to Houston TRACON, where controller staffing levels are strained. This consolidation will lead to reduced services.  

In 2006, the House voted 261-166 in favor of an amendment, introduced by Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., to prevent the FAA from further consolidation of air traffic control functions. Despite Congress’ overwhelming will to stop the consolidation of air traffic functions, the FAA has ignored lawmakers’ plea.  

To read press releases from members of Congress announcing the filing of H.R. 2443, please go to these links:

http://bono.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=65904

 

http://poe.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=65899

 

http://pryor.senate.gov/newsroom/details.cfm?id=274562&


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