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Congressman William Clay Joins NATCA President John Carr in Calling Upon Missouri Delegation to Stand Strong for Safety in the Skies - (10/22/2003)

WASHINGTON -Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., today urged his fellow members of the Missouri congressional delegation to resist White House efforts to privatize air traffic control at 69 towers across the nation, including Spirit of St. Louis Airport.

"We have heard from our constituents, who strongly oppose privatization of the safest, most efficient air traffic control system in the world," said Clay. "I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to heed that call."

On a conference call with reporters, the congressman was joined by John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and Winnifred DePalma, a lobbyist for Public Citizen's Congress Watch.

DePalma said the consumer organization is "very concerned about putting our air traffic control system into the hands of private companies. This is simply not good for public safety."

DePalma said opinion surveys show more than 70 percent of the American public opposes privatizing air traffic control. "This is clearly a step backwards," she said. "Public Citizen is urging the entire Missouri delegation, along with the other members of the House and Senate, to stick by their earlier votes to prohibit air traffic control from being privatized.

Clay noted that in June, the entire Missouri congressional delegation was united in supporting language specifically prohibiting the privatization of air traffic control. "Safety should not be a Democratic or Republican issue," he said. "It wasn't last summer, when a majority of Democrats and Republicans in both the Senate and the House voted to protect the safety of our skies. The fact is that the legislation was changed in the dead of night by a minority of Republicans who did not consult their Democratic colleagues, let alone the public."

NATCA President John Carr told reporters he was receiving mixed signals on whether the Missouri delegation was standing firm against privatization. "We know that some members such as Senators Talent and Bond are still on the fence about whether to prohibit privatization of our nation's air traffic control system," Carr said. "We're here today to say that standing strong is in the best interest of the citizens of Missouri and the flying public across the country."

Carr noted that Spirit of St. Louis is the third-busiest airport in Missouri. Its controllers guide 180,000 takeoffs and landings every year. "This is not a sleepy rural airport," he said. "Its pilots and passengers deserve first-class air traffic control.

"The solution is to restore the language to the FAA reauthorization bill that was supported overwhelmingly by the Senate and the House to reject privatization," Carr concluded.

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