No ATC Privatization, Honest

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In most organizations, if the chairman of the board said something, backed up by the CEO, you'd expect the rank and file to believe it. Not so, it seems, with the nagging issue of privatization of air traffic control services. Last week FAA Administrator Marion Blakey issued a memo to controllers that doesn't seem to leave too much room for (mis)interpretation. "These functions are not subject to competition and will not be contracted out," Blakey said in the memo. Earlier this year, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said much the same. However, the concept is still keeping members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) busy -- they staged information pickets at 75 airports Friday trying to prevent what their bosses say isn't going to happen. NATCA officials told Reuters that the move toward privatization is being driven by the White House and the Office of Management and Budget, which recently reclassified air traffic control services as a "commercial activity" instead of the "inherently governmental" classification they had always been under. "We believe air traffic control is too important to public safety to be farmed out to the lowest bidder," said NATCA President John Carr.