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Controllers Encouraged by Proactive Steps Taken by Congressional Committee to Address Delays, Airport Congestion - (4/26/2001)

WASHINGTON – The National Air Traffic Controllers Association commends a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing today on proposed legislation allowing air carriers to discuss their schedules as one of many current proactive steps being taken to address the systemic problems plaguing air travel.

Retired air traffic controller Dick Swauger, who now works in NATCA’s Safety and Technology Department, repeated in his testimony NATCA’s position that aviation delays are a multi-faceted problem. Just as there is not one cause, there is no blanket solution or quick fix to the problem. Capacity enhancements in the air traffic control system, airport capacity and capacity management are the three key factors.

NATCA believes the legislation is an important step in the right direction in the area of capacity management and applauds the airlines for their participation. Like controllers, they are fully engaged in the search for solutions, well aware there is no silver bullet or overnight fix to the problem.

As for capacity enhancements in the system, Swauger testified that controllers stand ready to help and are working with the Federal Aviation Administration to move new technologies into the workplace as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible, ensuring that the word “antiquated” no longer accurately describes the world’s most sophisticated air traffic control system.

But Swauger pointed out that continuing upgrades and new technology and air traffic procedures, while ensuring a safe, reliable system, will only increase capacity a fraction as much as the construction of new runways. The FAA’s Airport Capacity Benchmark Report 2001, released before the House Aviation Subcommittee on Wednesday, reaffirmed this fact.

“Our motivation is to move aircraft as safely, efficiently and quickly as possible,” Swauger testified. “The longer a delayed aircraft is in our airspace or occupies concrete on the ground, the more difficult our jobs become.”

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