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Bahamian Government Jeopardizes Air Safety - (6/21/2001)

WASHINGTON – U.S. air traffic controllers are expressing grave concern for travelers flying into the Bahamas because of a serious staffing situation which has resulted in unqualified replacement air traffic controllers on the job there.

"NATCA has become aware of numerous reports of safety infractions, including near misses, which the Bahamian government refuses to investigate," said John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "Our concern for air safety extends beyond the U.S. borders and we cannot sit silently by while it is jeopardized by politics."

Nearly 90 percent of the controllers at Nassau International Airport were placed on administrative leave three months ago following a labor dispute. The government had agreed to allow the controllers to return to work, but so far has failed to do so.

In order to continue to allow aircraft to operate in its airspace, the government has taken radical and apparently reckless steps. The government is ordering individuals who did not possess and who cannot obtain proper medical certification to perform air traffic control functions.

Additionally, senior management personnel and retired air traffic controllers who have been decertified for periods ranging from two to 15 years have also been ordered to perform air traffic control functions without going through the required re-certification program.

"If the unsafe and dangerous situation in the Bahamas is not addressed immediately, we would urge the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation to caution air travelers considering visiting the Bahamas," Carr stated.

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