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NATCA Tells Senate Subcommittee Aviation Infrastructure Needs Immediate Attention and a Stable, Predictable Funding Stream to Support it

WASHINGTON – Infrastructure is a top national priority, and that includes our National Airspace System. Today, National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi testified before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation that not only does the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) physical infrastructure need immediate attention, but we also need a stable, predictable funding stream to maintain pre-pandemic capacity and modernize the system’s physical and technological infrastructure.

“We now have an historic opportunity to invest in our nation’s aviation system, both its physical infrastructure and technology, to ensure the NAS remains the gold standard around the world,” Rinaldi said. “Upgrading our aging air traffic control facility infrastructure is a top priority for NATCA. The FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC) are almost 60 years old, and many of the towers and Terminal Radar Approach Control facilities (TRACONS) are in desperate need of repair or replacement. Many of these facilities have exceeded their life expectancy, while others need replacement of critical physical infrastructure systems including roofs, windows, HVAC systems, elevators, and plumbing.”

Rinaldi’s full testimony for the hearing, “Aviation Infrastructure for the 21st Century,” is available here.

The FAA operates more than 300 air traffic control facilities of varying ages and conditions. The FAA’s 20 ARTCCs in the continental United States were built in the 1960s, and the FAA’s large, stand-alone TRACONs are, on average, more than 25 years old. In addition, the FAA has 132 combined TRACON/Towers, which average about 35 years old. Finally, the FAA has another 131 stand-alone towers, which average more than 30 years old.

“Many of these facilities have identifiable defects that require immediate attention,” Rinaldi testified. “These issues range from workplace safety issues to airspace safety concerns. Some of these issues have led to periodic airspace shutdowns and many others lead to health and safety concerns for the workforce. When major systems fail or facilities have integrity problems, it can lead to a less efficient airspace.”

Rinaldi told the Committee NATCA believes that over one-third of the FAA’s facilities have only minor concerns or no concerns. For the most part, these facilities need only maintenance of their current physical infrastructure in order to continue to provide a safe environment for the workforce and a functional building to perform the FAA’s mission. However, on the other end of the spectrum, there are roughly 10% of facilities that are of NATCA’s highest concern and another approximately 20% of facilities that have major concerns regarding overall facility condition.

Rinaldi urged the Committee to support a robust funding authorization for air traffic control infrastructure.

“Although the FAA has begun the process of addressing its aging infrastructure through a combination of realignments, sustaining and maintaining some facilities, and replacing a handful of others, that process has been slow and hampered by the stop-and-go funding stream,” he said.

MORE INFORMATION: Doug Church, Deputy Director of Public Affairs; 301-346-8245, dchurch@natcadc.org.

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The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is a labor union and aviation safety organization in the United States that represents nearly 20,000 highly skilled air traffic controllers, engineers, and other aviation safety-related professionals. NATCA was certified in 1987 by the Federal Labor Relations Authority to be the exclusive bargaining representative for air traffic controllers employed by the Federal Aviation Administration. Today, NATCA is one of the strongest labor unions in the federal sector and represents a range of aviation safety professionals in 15 FAA bargaining units, 5 Department of Defense air traffic facilities, and 116 federal contract towers. These air traffic controllers and other aviation safety professionals make vital contributions to the U.S. economy and make modern life possible by coordinating the safe, orderly, and expeditious movement of nearly one billion aviation passengers and millions of tons of freight within the National Airspace System each year. NATCA is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

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