• Congress recessed for about a week to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday and returned to face a full plate of pending legislation before recessing again from July 26 through early next month. As of June 25, the bill count in the House of Representatives rose to 4,753 and, in the Senate, to 2,606, which certainly gave legislators plenty to debate.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
National Air Traffic Controllers Association president John Carr said, “Fewer eyes watching busier skies is not a scenario any of us want. Unless funds for hiring [new controllers] are appropriated, staff shortages will inevitably lead to serious delays, congestion and, yes, safety concerns.” NATCA is calling for $14 million to be allocated for hiring and training new controllers as part of the FAA’s 2005 fiscal-year budget.
Where is the House’s version of the FAA funding bill? That is the question industry is asking as time draws short to get it through committee and passed on the full floor. A spokesman for the Republican minority confirmed to AIN that the current delay stems from the issue of controller staffing. “Committee leaders urged the FAA and NATCA [the controllers’ union] to resolve their differences,” he said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is partnering with the FAA to provide veterans with disabilities on-the-job training as air traffic controllers or technicians installing and repairing ATC equipment.
Taking a tough line before next week’s opening of contract negotiations with the air traffic controllers union, the FAA said yesterday that “fundamental changes are needed in the contract if the agency is to afford new systems and inspectors to improve safety and to modernize the ATC system to reduce delays and congestion.” Currently, labor costs account for 80 percent of the FAA’s operating budget, and agency officials are looking back at a 1
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) is placing the burden of the NTSB’s recommendations squarely on the FAA. “Controller schedules were imposed on the controller workforce last September with little to no input [from controllers], let alone negotiations,” said a Natca spokesman. He dismissed FAA statements that controller schedules are “negotiated” with the union and that schedule changes require approval from employees.
The NTSB issued a series of recommendations this week asking the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to tighten regulations and procedures pertaining to controller vigilance, training and fatigue.
The FAA said its notice to tower controllers to review the taxi into position and hold (TIPH) procedure is not intended to end the practice, as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) alleges. “Basically, we are seeing a small trend of runway incursions resulting from that procedure,” said an FAA spokesperson. “We wanted to raise awareness and see if it is still required.
Unilaterally imposed work rules and the FAA reauthorization process are among the issues Pat Forrey, new president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca), plans to address during his first year in office. Forrey took over the association’s reins in September after he defeated two-term incumbent John Carr.
As Congress began hearings last month on the Bush Administration’s plan to fund the FAA, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey attempted to do what one lawmaker called “defending the indefensible.”
Early indications from Capitol Hill signaled that the White House proposal for increased taxes and user fees to provide the necessary money to run the FAA and modernize the ATC system would have rough sledding in Congress.