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NATCA Testifies on Worsening Delays before House Subcommittee - (9/26/2007)

WASHINGTON – NATCA President Patrick Forrey is testifying this afternoon before the House Aviation Subcommittee on the subject of worsening flight delays.  

Here is a link to view Forrey’s complete written testimony:

Forrey_NATCADelaystestimony.pdf

Below are some of the main points NATCA is making in this testimony: 

Aside from the millions of air travelers who experienced the pain and frustration of this summer’s record level of flight delays first-hand, nobody had a better view of the congested runways, taxiways, gate ramps and airways than this nation’s air traffic controllers. These controllers worked record amounts of hours and overtime in a high stress work environment, where most facilities were understaffed, to try and move the system along as efficiently as possible, while keeping safety above all as our highest priority and guiding principle.

NATCA’s message on the subject of delays has not changed: Scheduling during peak hours contributes to delays at busy airports even in good weather. All scheduled flights will not be able to arrive on time. Responsible scheduling of flights within airport capacity limits will go a long way toward alleviating delays. This is the EXACT same message we delivered to Congress in 2001.

Understaffing remains the number one issue for this nation’s air traffic controller workforce and this year, we have witnessed its effects on the efficiency of the system and our ability to squeeze as much capacity out of the system as possible. The FAA waited until just the past two years to begin hiring our veteran controllers’ replacements, three years too late in our view. In fact, in 2004, the year the FAA should have hired more than 1,000 new prospective controllers to be ready to work this summer’s record number of planes and passengers (it takes three years to train), the agency instead hired 13.  As a result, there are now just 11,467 experienced and fully certified air traffic controllers on staff in our 314 facilities as of May 26, 2007, according to FAA figures. That is the lowest number in 11 years, since there were 11,355 on staff in 1996. It’s also 1,113 controllers less than what we had on staff on 9/11.

Without more runways, taxiways, ramps and gates -- in a word, pavement -- it won’t matter what we do in the airspace to increase capacity to allow more aircraft to use the National Airspace System. While NextGen and new technologies such as ADS-B are exciting, hold enormous potential for the future of our system and have NATCA’s full support and pledge of participation, the key to unlocking the gridlock we are seeing in the system lies on the ground, at the airports.


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