Early last month President Bush departed for a month-long hiatus in Texas and just about the same time Congress opted to take its August recess. So, the dog days of August descended on a more or less deserted legislative Washington.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
The unions representing nearly 20,000 employees of the FAA have joined in a coalition “to hold the FAA accountable” for meeting its modernization goals and to improve working conditions at the agency. The coalition represents the largest group of organized employees at the FAA.
In one of her first speeches as FAA Administrator, Marion Blakey promised that her five-year term will be driven by data and hard numbers, be consistent across all FAA regions and offices and emphasize the agency’s role in international aviation.
In a show of solidarity that even FAA Administrator Jane Garvey acknowledged would have been “hard to imagine” two or three years ago, 13 aviation groups ranging from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) to AOPA urged the Bush Administration to make aviation capacity improvements a top national priority.
The FAA could face a shortage of air traffic controllers in the next decade unless it makes more adequate plans to replace as many as 11,000 current controllers who could leave the agency by 2012, the General Accounting Office (GAO) has warned Congress. And that attrition could affect the safety of the ATC system and increase air traffic delays.
The New York Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) and the New York Tracon will be combined into one building under an FAA plan to integrate air traffic services in the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia metropolitan areas.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) president Patrick Forrey raised more than a few eyebrows in a recent speech at the Washington Aero Club, calling on Congress to order an immediate, comprehensive evaluation of the NextGen ATC system before any more funds are expended.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association president John Carr reacted angrily to former DOT inspector general Mary Schiavo’s citing of controller safety concerns over expansion plans at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Carr said the union endorses expansion of the airport “unequivocally.” He added, “We enthusiastically support the proposed legislation for its intended purpose to expand aviation capacity in the Chicago area.”
In a move seen by many observers as a first step in privatizing the nation’s ATC services, President Bush amended an executive order issued by President Clinton in December 2000 that made ATC an “inherently governmental function.”
The General Accounting Office warned the FAA that unless it makes better plans to replace the 5,000 air traffic controllers expected to retire over the next five years, there might be a shortfall that could affect the safety of the ATC system and increase air traffic delays.