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GAO Report Stresses Importance of Aviation Safety - (10/14/2011)

CONTACT: Doug Church, 301-346-8245

WASHINGTON – The nation’s air traffic controllers on Friday welcomed a new Government Accountability Report on aviation safety as evidence that the U.S. aviation system is the safest in the world and getting safer all the time thanks to steps taken by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Safety is not just our number one priority; it’s our only priority, and the GAO report confirms that we have the safest system in the world,” NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said. “We take this report seriously and we value the way in which it helps us address concerns before they become problems.”

While the report validates the overall safety of the system, controllers would like to clarify several important points that speak to our ongoing efforts to improve safety:

-  The FAA and NATCA are collaborating on several safety reporting systems that are not only bringing more data to light, but also addressing safety issues already disclosed by the FAA.

-  We are sharing usable safety information down to the local facility level.

-  We are shifting toward risk-based analyses of airborne and surface aviation safety information.

-  It’s important to count every error and learn from every one of them, and that is what we are doing.

NATCA would also like to clarify one important point made by the GAO. The report states that 65 percent of the errors reported through the non-punitive program were unknown to the FAA. But, in fact, all incidents reported to the program were and are known to the FAA. This is an FAA program and it satisfies controllers’ requirement to notify FAA management of any event that occurs.

“The FAA is aware of every incident and report,” Rinaldi said.

“The number of serious safety incidents on our runways has been reduced over the past decade due to increased awareness and action by controllers. The increase in reported errors cited by the GAO is due in large measure to new data collection systems that encourage employees to report more types of incidents. What’s more, the vast majority of reported errors do not impact the safety of flights. They are akin to going 56 miles an hour in a 55 mile-an-hour zone – a minor infraction,” Rinaldi said.

NATCA testified in Congress last May about aviation safety and made its concerns clear. To read the full testimony, please click here:




The National Air Traffic Controllers Association represents over 20,000 highly skilled controllers, engineers and other safety-related professionals.

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