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Tue, May 19, 2009

NATCA Lauds Congressman

Says Thank You To Congressman Hastings With "Sentinel Of Safety" Award

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-FL, was presented with NATCA's "Sentinel of Safety" award, this week, during his appearance before the organization's annual legislative conference. The "Sentinel of Safety" Award was created as a way to honor a member of the aviation and legislative communities who has displayed outstanding achievement in the advancement of aviation safety. The award is open to all leaders of the aviation community, with a special emphasis on those whose leadership on aviation safety issues has been historic, aggressive and courageous.

"It is a great day for NATCA when we can bestow this type of honor and say a well-deserved thank you to such a courageous and forceful champion of aviation safety and Congressman Hastings is all of those things and more," NATCA President Patrick Forrey said. "It is extremely valuable and inspirational to have a leader like Congressman Hastings standing beside the aviation safety professionals that NATCA represents, fighting to demand a complete examination of FAA policies and decisions and open dialogue with all concerned parties."

NATCA notes that, 'the FAA is moving forward on ad hoc air traffic control facility and service realignment efforts without a comprehensive review procedure to determine whether the realignment provides an operational benefit to users, increases safety and efficiency, and/or saves the taxpayer money. This despite overwhelming, bipartisan Congressional opposition, including the delegations from 27 states. NATCA believes FAA Reauthorization is needed to provide that review procedure and compel the FAA to subject all current realignment efforts to this needed layer of oversight, accountability and transparency.'

Just as with technological development, NATCA beleives that realignment efforts completed in a collaborative environment will ensure benefits are realized rather than squandered. 'Nobody believes this more than Congressman Hastings, whose efforts to put a spotlight on FAA realignment plans in Florida,' included a March letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that was co-signed by members of the Florida Congressional delegation.

The letter stated, "We write to inquire about the FAA's plans for air traffic control services in Florida, particularly the relocation of terminal radar approach control (TRACON) services from West Palm Beach (PBI) to Miami (MIA) and the service provided to the expanding areas around Fort Pierce (FPR) and Vero Beach (VRB). During meetings between Members of Congress, the FAA, and controllers from Miami Approach, Miami Center and West Palm Beach, discussions have repeatedly centered on the FAA's lack of a strategic plan for Florida. All the parties agree that FPR and VRB would be better served by an approach facility.

"We are deeply concerned about the recent FAA decision to split tower and radar functions at Orlando International in spite of overwhelming Congressional opposition. The combined configuration at Orlando provided management with flexibility to place controllers where circumstances dictated they were needed. …We are also concerned about the operational benefits of air traffic control facilities that house controllers certified in both radar and tower operations. It is more effective and efficient for a controller to have hands-on working knowledge of both aspects of the operation, so that they can more safely and proficiently hand-off and receive aircraft from and to the next controller. When these functions are split that vital symmetry between radar and tower controllers is lost."

While NATCA thinks highly of Hastings, and his support of their Union, the choice of the Congressman is not without some significant controversy. Hastings has had a checkered past. In 1981, (then) Judge Hastings was charged with accepting a $150K bribe. The case against him fell apart when his alleged co-conspirator refused to testify against him. In 1988, the House looked into the matter and impeached Hastings for bribery and perjury. The vote was 413-3.  The Senate convicted him in 1989, making the sixth Federal Judge removed from office -- move that was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court. Depsite all that, the votes and consequences did not keep him from being elected to Congress in 1992, from Florida's 23rd District.

FMI: www.natca.org

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