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Philadelphia Air Traffic Controllers Warn That Staffing Crisis Could Lead to Delays, Congestion - (7/2/2004)

Call Upon Senator Specter to Stand Strong and Fight to Head Off Looming Crisis

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia air traffic controller Don Chapman said today that without action from Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration to address a worsening staffing shortage, the result will be delays, congestion and a decreased margin for safety.

“Our only goal is to make sure that passengers get home safely. And that requires having the right number of controllers watching our skies,” said Chapman, who also serves as the local chapter president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. The FAA-authorized staffing total for the Philadelphia tower is 109 controllers, yet there are only 89 controllers stationed at the facility, and only 69 of those are fully certified controllers. Given that it can take up to five years to train a controller at certain facilities, with not everyone making the cut, Congress and the FAA need to act now.”

The air traffic controllers noted that timing is particularly critical giving the upcoming vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee authorizing funding for the FAA and other transportation-related agencies. Senator Specter, a member of the Committee, has asked his colleagues to give $14 million to FAA to begin the critical hiring process.

“We thank Senator Specter for his support and urge him to continue to stand strong and fight for this necessary funding,” said Chapman. “While we recognize that Congress is facing many budget challenges, we cannot afford to wait on staffing any longer. The consequences are simply too severe.”

Chapman described the effects of understaffing. The shortage of controllers often results in the combining of control positions in the tower, resulting in the potential of jeopardizing safety with fewer eyes on the runways and taxiways and more time spent juggling multiple responsibilities.

Added Chapman: “Air traffic controllers at Philadelphia and across the country will do all we can to help passengers get through the upcoming busy summer travel season and beyond, but we cannot do it alone. The FAA itself anticipates a national shortage of up to 50 percent in the next 10 years. 1,000 controllers will need to be brought into the system each year to meet demand.”

“We have the safest, most efficient air traffic control system in the world. We cannot afford to put this system at risk by closing our eyes to a very real problem with very real consequences,” Chapman concluded.

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