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Controllers Urge House Appropriations Committee to Make Necessary Investment in Safety of Our Skies - (7/14/2004)

WASHINGTON – As the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee prepares for tomorrow’s scheduled session to mark up a spending bill for next year, air traffic controllers today are again imploring lawmakers to make sure that the safety of our skies is protected by providing $14 million to the FAA to begin hiring and training more air traffic controllers.

"Fourteen million dollars is what ‘Spider-Man 2’ took in at the box office by noon on its first day of release," National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr said. "It’s a down payment on the urgently-needed, long-term investment in the safety of our skies. The GAO, the FAA and our nation’s air traffic controllers have all told Congress that our nation is facing a serious staffing crisis just as air traffic is increasing. We will settle for nothing less to protect the safety of the system. The nearly 700 million air travelers who fly in this country each year should not have to beg for crumbs in an $800 billion budget or settle for congestion, delays and safety concerns in the busiest airspace in the world."

Carr noted that the Federal Aviation Administration itself has stated that the system will be short 450 controllers this year and 2,181 in the next three years. It takes up to three to five years to train a controller and not everyone makes the cut. In response, Carr said, the agency has managed to hire a single controller this year to address the problem. "That’s right," he added. "The FAA told Congress they have hired one single solitary controller to address the looming shortage."

"The House appropriations subcommittee has a unique and critical opportunity to reach to the heart of the air traffic control system and provide for its safe future operation by giving the FAA the human resources it needs to safely handle the rising number of flights and passengers we are seeing nationwide," Carr said. "The public’s safety is truly in their hands. The FAA has refused to act. So now the Congress must."

Carr added: "It’s up to Congress to make sure that funding is provided. And it all starts with just $14 million. That is a down payment on our aviation system’s future, and it is a small price to pay. If this problem is not addressed immediately, we will face a tragic price in the not-too-distant future."

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