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Tue, May 29, 2007

Senator Says Legislation Needed To Bring FAA, Controllers Back To Table

Blames Increased Flight Delays On Contentious Relationship

New York Senator Charles Schumer says continued hostilities between air traffic controllers and the FAA are partly to blame for a record number of flight delays at New York's three major airports... and that he intends to introduce legislation that will force the two sides to make nice.

Newsday reports the Senator thinks the delays are the result of too few controllers, combined with increased traffic. And if you thought the problem was bad before... just wait until this summer.

"For passengers to be waiting on the ground ... all because of an internal dispute is just not fair," Schumer said this weekend, adding he plans to introduce a bill to return the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association back to the bargaining table.

As ANN reported, negotiations between the two sides fell apart last year, after the agency imposed a new contract on the union. To call the resulting situation "contentious" would be a profound understatement.

Schumer's office claims flight delays have increased by 35 percent at LaGuardia over last year, and 20 percent at Newark. Those figures pale in comparison to the situation at JFK, however... the scene of a whopping 140 percent increase in delays.

The FAA admits delays have gotten worse... but adds those delays were "not attributed to staffing levels at FAA's air traffic control facilities." The agency notes many delays have been weather related, particularly during the past winter season.

Predictably, NATCA attributes the rise in delays to the loss of experienced controllers at FAA facilities. Union vice-president Rich Barbarello said roughly 100 controllers nationwide have quit since September, due to pay cuts under the imposed contract

"It's no longer a career ... They've destroyed the profession," Barbarello said of the FAA, adding NATCA supports Schumer's proposed legislation.

This isn't the first time the New York senator has gotten involved in the tangle between the FAA and NATCA. As ANN reported earlier this year, Schumer called for a tripling of the FAA's planned FY2008 recruitment budget, to combat anticipated controller shortages.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.natca.org, www.senate.gov/~schumer/

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