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Carr Offers House Subcommittee Ideas on FAA Air Traffic Organization, Joint Planning and Development Office and Aviation Trust Fund - (4/14/2005)

WASHINGTON – Speaking before a Congressional panel, National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr today outlined ideas to improve the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Organization, address staffing problems and improve planning for future air traffic system growth, and refuted the belief that serious funding problems could lead to system users paying for a reduced level of service.

Carr told the House Aviation Subcommittee the ATO has made major strides in structural change, but from the inside of the organization, NATCA has found several hurdles yet to clear. Specifically, Carr said, the ATO’s chief operating officer reports to the staff in the FAA’s Human Resource Management Department on personnel matters. “The current relationship between ATO and HR creates excessive bureaucracy for even the simplest of tasks,” Carr said, adding that HR should fall under the direction of the COO.

The biggest challenge facing the ATO in the immediate future, Carr argued, is addressing the controller staffing crisis. Carr offered several solutions, including eliminating regional or service area boundaries that place artificial caps on transfers. FAA data shows that fully certified controllers transferring to higher level facilities complete training in half as much time as a new hire.

Carr also proposed that Collegiate Training Initiative graduates should bypass the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City for training. NATCA testified last year that the value of the academy was in the screening process, but the FAA has determined, as reported in its controller workforce plan, that the academy is no longer used for that purpose. “If CTI students were able to bypass academy training,” Carr said, “the FAA could substantially revise the costs associated with the workforce plan and reprogram funds to accelerate facility specific training” in order to eliminate “considerable waste within the contractor training functions.”

Addressing the committee’s call to review progress of the Joint Planning and Development Office, tasked with charting the system’s future growth, Carr reported that NATCA has filled the FAA’s request for a full time liaison to the JPDO and has already provided considerable input into the team’s activities on subjects like the future mix of aircraft, maximizing airspace efficiency, navigational aids and aircraft separation standards.

Carr closed his testimony by lamenting that “too often the solutions offered for cost savings involve reducing the levels of service available” and expressed concern that the FAA’s current rhetoric on the Aviation Trust Fund is “preventing a factual discussion.” Carr submitted to the committee a report on the trust fund by NATCA Executive Vice President Ruth Marlin, and summarized it by declaring, “Projected growth in trust fund revenue outpaces the projected growth in operations costs. Trust fund revenues are increasing and growth is projected to continue. These are facts. It is no secret some believe user fees would remove the Congressional oversight committees and elected officials from the decision-making process. NATCA has grave concerns with this approach. We believe the safety of our skies is a sacred public trust and it is role of our elected officials to protect that trust.”

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