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Costa Rican Government Action Leads to Unsafe Skies over Central America - (7/6/2004)

WASHINGTON – The National Air Traffic Controllers Association today condemned the actions of the Costa Rican government in its decision to lock out the Central American nation’s air traffic controller workforce.

“All travelers should be shocked by this careless and ill-advised action taken recently by the government of Costa Rica. Using uncertified, unqualified controllers creates a serious hazard to aircraft,” NATCA President John Carr said. “The actions of the government in Costa Rica are, at best, reckless. Not only is the government refusing to negotiate working conditions with its controllers, it has put the safety of its air traffic control system in jeopardy and we strongly condemn both of these actions.”

Carr added that authorities in Costa Rica have resorted to violating legitimate, legal contracts signed and ratified with the air traffic controllers’ association of Costa Rica. Professionally trained and licensed air traffic controllers have been removed from their positions and replaced with unqualified personnel, including pilots, as part of a government “contingency plan” to deal with an industrial matter.

NATCA calls on the authorities in Costa Rica to return qualified and experienced air traffic controllers back to the job. “Safety must remain the number one priority in aviation and must not be compromised,” Carr remarked.

“Our concern for air safety extends beyond the U.S. borders and we cannot sit silently by while it is jeopardized by the dangerous actions of a foreign government,” Carr stated. “We urge the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation to caution air travelers considering visiting Costa Rica.”

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