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Tue, Aug 08, 2006

NATCA Says DIA Sets New Record for Traffic... With Fewer Controllers

...Uses Occasion To Pitch For More Staffing

NATCA tells ANN that on Friday, August 4, 2006, Denver International Airport set a new traffic count record, with 2013 departures and arrivals for the day. This is reportedly the first time DIA surpassed the 2000 mark -- and with 'only 15 Controllers and 1 Traffic Management Coordinator working the entire day and evening shifts.'

The reason for the dramatic increase is twofold, says Mike Coulter, President of the local chapter of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association at DIA. "First we have the increase in flights with Southwest’s expansion being matched by United and Frontier Airlines. Plus, we no longer have as many Boeing 757’s and Boeing 777’s flying out of Denver. They have been replaced with much smaller regional jets. It takes a lot more airplanes to move the same number of people. In the past 12 months DIA has averaged over 24% more flights in and out per day as compared to one year ago. We expect this number to only increase as time goes on."

"What makes this even more special," says Coulter, "is even as our traffic is increasing in dramatic numbers, we are doing it with less and less Controllers. When DIA opened in 1995, DIA had 49 Controllers working an average of 1350 departures and arrivals per day. Now we are working record numbers of aircraft with only 33 Controllers. Of those,
7 are already eligible to retire, with another 9 becoming eligible by the end of next year."

"It’s been a long time since we had an operational error," says Coulter. "That is due to the experience of these Controllers. We have had only one error in the past four years at DIA out of more than 3 million operations. That is an amazing record by anyone’s standard. Credit needs to be given to the fine men and women who keep the skies over
Denver safe every day, under difficult circumstances."

"Yet, we are getting older and the FAA really needs to start bringing in replacements before it’s too late," says Coulter. "If the FAA does not start bringing in people soon, we will not be able to keep this record up. There are only so many airplanes you can work with this number of Controllers."

According to NATCA, DIA is now landing and departing as many airplanes as Los Angeles and Dallas, with only Chicago and Atlanta running more.



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