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NATCA To House Committee: FAA Is Failing To Make Our Runways Safer - (9/25/2008)

CONTACTS:  NATCA National Office, Alexandra Caldwell, 202-220-9813, 202-997-7741 (cell); acaldwell@natcadc.org     

WASHINGTON, D.C. – NATCA President Patrick Forrey testified today in front of the House Aviation Subcommittee on the Federal Aviation Administration’s lack of progress and initiative to improve runway safety.

Forrey testified that no significant improvements have been made by the FAA since the committee’s last hearing on runway safety in February and that runway incursions, despite the FAA’s claims, are on the rise.  As of September 4, 2008 there have been 921 runway incursions – 106 more than in FY2007.

The following is an excerpt of NATCA President Patrick Forrey’s testimony.  For the full testimony go to: 

“NATCA has been very disappointed by the lack of meaningful attention the FAA has given to addressing the issue of runway safety. Although the Agency has made some nominal gestures, it has done little of value to address NATCA’s concerns or implement our recommendations. 

“The FAA has taken no meaningful steps toward returning to the bargaining table to bargain with air traffic controllers.  As a result, job dissatisfaction remains high and controllers continue to flee the profession at alarming rates through retirement (less than two percent of those that left reached their mandatory retirement age), resignations, and promotions to management.  Although the FAA has put into place several incentive programs, these stop-gap measures have proven very limited in their efficacy and do not address the problem at its root.   

“As NATCA has testified before this subcommittee, understaffing forces many controllers to work frequent overtime shifts contributing to fatigue in the workforce.  Even with many controllers working extra hours, shifts remain short-staffed – forcing controllers to work combined positions and affording them fewer opportunities for rest and recovery during the shift itself, exacerbating problems with workload and fatigue.  Furthermore, the outflow of experienced personnel from the air traffic controller ranks has created an unmanageable ratio of trainees, forced trainees into busy facilities, and contributed to an unacceptable lack of experience in the workforce at large.   

“In March 2008, the FAA released the annual “Controller Workforce Plan” which updated the FAA’s staffing ranges for each air traffic control facility.   These staffing ranges are designed to give the misleading appearance that facilities are adequately staffed by designing ranges that are deliberately skewed low.  In its 2007 workforce plan, the FAA justifies these ranges by averaging the following numbers.”   

Forrey also addressed FAA Reauthorization legislation. Yesterday, Congress passed H.R. 6984, the Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2008, Part II – legislation extending the current funding and authority of the Airport Airway Trust Fund.   

Forrey thanked the committee for its leadership on FAA Reauthorization but expressed his deep disappointment that the Senate failed to pass its own bill, “…ignoring the current demise of the NAS and neglecting the needed infrastructure improvements for a safe and efficient airspace system.”

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