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In Light of Recent Close Calls and GAO Report, on Runway Safety, NATCA Asks FAA for Emergency Meeting - (12/10/2007)

National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Patrick Forrey has sent the following letter to Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell, requesting an emergency meeting “to see what we can do together to restore system safety before tragedy occurs.”
-Doug Church
NATCA Director of Communications

Mr. Robert Sturgell
Acting Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Ave., SW
Wash., DC  20591
Dear Administrator Sturgell:
As you know, last week’s GAO report on runway incursions highlighted the risk of a potential catastrophic collision due, in part, to lack of adequate technology, FAA’s failure to exhibit national leadership on high-priority, runway-related safety actions, and unprecedented numbers of overworked controllers at facilities around the country.
These conditions are placing both pilots and air traffic controllers at great risk of mishap. Within the last several months, operational errors have spiked due to overworked controllers having to handle record traffic, work six-day weeks, and compensate for a growing number of trainees who are not certified for, or capable of, handling busy sectors. We are also hearing that, beginning next month, certified controllers may retire at accelerated rates due to contract issues.
Moreover, in the last 30 days, we have witnessed several alarming close calls in the airspace above Chicago and Oakland, and on runways at Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Newark. Just this past weekend, two general aviation planes collided in mid-air. One was under the control of Miami TRACON where it appears that a busy controller issued a traffic advisory but was unable to prevent the collision.
NATCA is extremely worried that the safety margins—which have kept the nation’s skies the safest in the world—have all but eroded. We have initiated our own technology review to identify capacity and safety enhancements that we can propose to the agency and its stakeholders. In the interim, however, we are requesting an emergency meeting between the agency’s top ATC executives and NATCA to see what we can do together to restore system safety before tragedy occurs.
My team and I stand ready to meet at your earliest possible convenience.
Patrick Forrey
President, NATCA

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