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NATCA President John Carr to Testify on Airline Delays and Proposed Solutions - (9/28/2000)

WASHINGTON – National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr will join a panel of officials today to testify on airline delays before the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on aviation.

Continued dissatisfaction with the progress of national airspace system modernization and the mounting problem of aviation gridlock has led many industry and government officials to call for privatization and restructuring of the FAA. Proponents argue that alternative organizational structures for air traffic control operations and the entire agency would improve modernization efforts and solve the problem of delays. But Carr strongly argues that this is not the answer.

“Privatization will not speed up the process of building new runways and airports,” Carr said. “Privatization would, instead, fracture the delicate balance of a workforce that holds the system together.”

The leading causes of aviation delays, as identified by NATCA, are crowded skies, unrealistic hub scheduling, weather, underutilization of airports, penalties for operational errors and deviations and the increasing use of regional jets. One simple, yet controversial solution, Carr suggests, is to pour more concrete. Construction of new terminals, taxiways, runways and gates has not kept pace with passenger growth.

“Airlines have embarked on a well-financed campaign of misinformation blaming air traffic control for their delays,” Carr said. “It is simply untrue to say that air traffic control is primarily at fault for the hundreds of thousands of delays each year.”

Carr also will address the Federal Aviation Administration’s modernization effort. NATCA is a firm supporter of Administrator Jane Garvey’s “build a little, test a little, deploy a little” strategy. “Many are quick to point the finger at the ‘outdated and antiquated’ air traffic control system as a major cause of delays,” said Carr, who argues this is not true. “To refer to the air traffic control system as ‘outdated and antiquated’ is no longer an accurate characterization.”

Carr maintains the current system can be improved – if enough time is provided to do it. “Privatization will not speed up this process,” he said. “Given the nature of the air traffic control system, privatization is foolish and unfounded. The safety of the flying public should never be in competition with corporate profits. For FAA controllers, safety is our business – and business is good.”

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