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NATCA Tells Acting FAA Administrator the Country is Facing “A Growing Crisis in Aviation Safety and Air Traffic Control" - (12/21/2007)

CONTACT:     Doug Church, 202-220-9802; 301-346-8245 (cell)

WASHINGTON – In an attempt to establish a new working relationship on safety, technology and capacity issues at the highest levels of the Federal Aviation Administration, NATCA President Patrick Forrey met today with Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell.   

Forrey told Sturgell and a group of FAA senior executives that the country is facing a “growing crisis in aviation safety and air traffic control.” Around the nation, he said, controllers are being asked to work long hours with very short staff to handle increasingly congested runways and airspace. “Controllers need a process to report aviation safety problems because they are currently subject to discipline and retaliation from their FAA supervisors,” Forrey added. 

According to Forrey, the FAA continues to minimize the seriousness of recurring close calls at some of the nation’s busiest airports, including Wednesday’s near-miss at Chicago Center in Aurora, Ill., where a veteran controller had to intercede for an inexperienced trainee. Not only are facilities short-staffed, Forrey says, but more than 10 percent of the remaining veteran workforce will likely retire in the upcoming days and weeks.   

“The FAA continues to claim that critical technology needed to prevent mishaps and handle congestion is fielded on time and within budget, yet this flies in the face of data released by the Department of Transportation Inspector General and GAO,” said Forrey.  "It's clear from Congressional testimony that representatives from both political parties believe that rebaselining several major programs contributes to a false sense of security that system safety was in check." 

To try to come up with some near-term solutions, NATCA requested that the FAA convene an air traffic control safety conference to bring the nation’s pilots, airlines, and controllers together. In the meantime, Forrey and Sturgell agreed to meet January 3, 2008 to develop a process to identify and address safety related issues that NATCA and the FAA could address jointly. 

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