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Forrey, Nextgen Can Only Succeed if FAA Collaborates with NATCA - (3/18/2009)

CONTACT: Doug Church, 301-346-8245

WASHINGTON – NATCA President Patrick Forrey today told the House Aviation Subcommittee that the union remains completely committed to the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System (NAS). Thus, NATCA supports NextGen and believes it has a chance to succeed, but only if the Federal Aviation Administration collaborates meaningfully with NATCA and all aviation stakeholders.

“New technology has the potential to improve safety, expand capacity, and increase efficiency of the NAS. Therefore, we support the FAA’s willingness to undertake the large scale and long-term research, development and modernization project that it has labeled The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen),” testified Forrey. “There are however, several outstanding shortcomings with the FAA’s methodology and plans that need to be addressed at this early stage of the process.”

The FAA must collaborate meaningfully with stakeholders – The inclusion of NATCA is critical to the success of NextGen and all projects relating to modernization, technology and procedures. As recently as February 11th of this year, the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General of the Transportation Department have both testified before this Committee that controller involvement prevents cost overruns and implementation delays. NATCA must be included in all stages, from inception to implementation.
NowGen must not be neglected as we prepare for NextGen – The current air traffic control system has fallen into disrepair. Both the human infrastructure, including staffing levels of air traffic controllers, inspectors, engineers, and other aviation safety professionals, and physical infrastructure, such as poorly-maintained and deteriorating air traffic control facilities, need attention in the near term. 

Human factors must be addressed – Several of NextGen’s proposals raise serious concerns regarding human factors, including the increased complexity and safety risk inherent in a best equipped, best served policy. These issues must be addressed during the development stages in order to avoid delays, cost overruns, and safety failures.

Safety requires redundancy – NATCA is concerned that the system being proposed by the FAA, which is centralized and lacking a viable backup, is unacceptably vulnerable to attack or natural disaster. Human intervention must not be the first and only layer of redundancy. The FAA must build redundancy into the system in order to ensure that in the event of an attack, natural disaster, or technological failure, safety is not compromised.
Testified Forrey: “The FAA’s go-it-alone strategy has come under criticism by this Committee and throughout the aviation industry. Last month, the FAA announced that it has committed to launching a NextGen Implementation Panel, through the RTCA Inc. (formerly the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics). Despite this gesture, to date we have received no indication from the FAA that the Agency has any intention of meaningfully collaborating with NATCA.

“The labor-management environment that developed during the Bush Administration continues to make meaningful collaboration nearly impossible. The contempt with which all levels of agency management has treated and continues to treat the air traffic controller workforce makes it clear that the agency does not value the professionalism of NATCA’s members.  It is our hope that after the imposed work rules are addressed by the Obama Administration and NATCA and the FAA reach a mutually-accepted collective bargaining agreement, we can again return to an era of cooperation and collaboration that will best serve the needs of the FAA, air traffic controllers, stakeholders, and the flying public.”

To read Forrey’s full written testimony, please Click Here

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