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NATCA President John Carr Updates House Subcommittee - (8/2/2001)

WASHINGTON - National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr testified today before the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee on efforts to reduce aviation delays.

Delays and cancellations have eased over the past few months, which, according to Carr, speaks to a new era of cooperation in the aviation community. Thanks in part to the leadership of the subcommittee, NATCA, the Federal Aviation Administration, pilots, airlines, airports and others are working together to develop solutions. NATCA and the Air Transport Association co-hosted a summit last week to assemble the aviation community in a spirit of collaboration. A letter to President Bush was drafted, asking that he make capacity, modernization and long-term funding issues a national priority.

Carr’s testimony also included several key points:

· The U.S. air traffic control system is the world’s most sophisticated, handling twice as many instrument flight rules flights at only a slightly higher total cost with the same number of controllers as Europe. The FAA is modernizing the system gradually, effectively and carefully, with safety as its litmus test.

· With respect to the FAA’s modernization effort, NATCA believes it is critical to correct misperceptions or inaccurate information. This is especially important in the case of Canada, which is often used as an example of a success story by those who want to privatize the U.S. system. However, despite moving just nine percent as much traffic as the United States, Canada has an abysmal safety record by comparison, with three times the number of operating safety irregularities per 100,000 operations (one operation is a takeoff or landing). Additionally, runway incursions are occurring in Canada at more than three times the rate of the United States. Nav Canada has used its surplus revenue to reduce the air navigation fees charged to airlines, as opposed to investment in new equipment or modernization. Canada does not have a national Flight Data Processing system, which puts it 20 or more years behind the United States in its ability to hand off aircraft between centers via automation.

· Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization strike and subsequent firing of over 11,000 controllers by former President Ronald Reagan. The replacement workforce will reach retirement eligibility in the coming years. The General Accounting Office is currently trying to determine whether the FAA will have a sufficient number of controllers to meet its short and long term staffing needs.
· On May 10, Sen. Max Cleland introduced The Federal Air Traffic Controllers Annuity Computation Act. The bill would change the annuity computation for air traffic controllers under the Civil Service Retirement System to give them the same annuity that is afforded federal firefighters and law enforcement officers.

· NATCA remains a partner in National Airspace Redesign. Since signing a memorandum of understanding with the FAA, five new sectors of airspace have been opened at centers in Cleveland, Chicago and Indianapolis. We expect 14 additional sectors to be opened over the next six to eight months.

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