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NATCA Supports Nextgen, Says Union "Must Be An Active Participant" - (3/25/2009)

CONTACT:  Doug Church, 301-346-8245

WASHINGTON – NATCA’s top safety and technology expert, former Atlanta and Charlotte air traffic controller Dale Wright, reaffirmed for the Senate Aviation Subcommittee today the union’s full support of the NextGen air traffic control system and said, "we believe that NATCA must be an active participant." He outlined specifically why that is critically important to NextGen’s success.          

"Collaboration with NATCA is especially important, as our members will be the primary users of the NextGen technology," Wright testified. "Because of their current, front-line, air traffic control experience, NATCA members are uniquely qualified to provide insight into the needs of the system, as well as utility and usability of NextGen technology. Doing so on the front-end rather than during implementation will save the agency time and taxpayer money while avoiding damage to the integrity of the air traffic control system."

Wright said in Europe, Eurocontrol is undertaking a modernization project called SESAR, which is similar in size and scope to NextGen. Leaders of Eurocontrol recognize the paramount importance of including the front-line air traffic controller workforce in this project’s development. Said Wright, "they even went so far as to pay IFATCA, the international organization for controllers, €50,000 for their designated representative’s time and effort."

"Unfortunately," Wright testified, "for NextGen, the FAA has taken the opposite approach. Although NATCA has reached out many times to offer our expertise, the FAA has rejected each of our offers. They have made it abundantly clear that they do not value the professional knowledge and expertise that NATCA brings to the table.

"So strong is our commitment to the success NextGen that when it became clear to us that NATCA would have no opportunity to work directly with the FAA, we sought inclusion indirectly through private-sector industry workgroups. The private sector aviation community, recognizing the benefits of our inclusion, welcomed us with open arms. At last week’s House Aviation Subcommittee hearing on NextGen, representatives of both ATA and the GAMA testified about the importance of controller involvement throughout the development and implementation of NextGen.

"Thus far the FAA’s go-it-alone strategy has yielded results that are incomplete, unsafe, and ineffective."

Concluded Wright: "We at NATCA recognize the severity of the issues facing today’s air traffic control system and we are eager to help the FAA address issues of system capacity, delays, safety, and sustainability. But we also caution them not to abandon NowGen in their fervor over NextGen. The FAA must remain cognizant of the physical and human capital infrastructure that holds the ATC system together and begin to look at the members of the controller workforce not as an obstacle but as the valuable resource that they are."

To read Wright’s full written testimony, please Click Here

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