NATCA Finds Mineta's Stand Fishy

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Congress may be taking a recess -- putting the FAA reauthorization bill on hold till after Labor Day -- but the debate over privatization goes on without a break. In the latest round, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is getting snippy with DOT Secretary Norm Mineta over the Bush administration's decision to declare seafood inspection an "inherently governmental" function -- the very designation NATCA has been insisting for years that ATC deserves. John Carr, president of NATCA, asked Mineta last Thursday to "extend the same level of safety to our skies as you do to our seafood." Carr went on to note that "it defies reason that air traffic controllers would not be considered inherently government employees." While NATCA and PASS (Professional Airways Systems Specialists) press their case, they could have a tough road ahead in defeating the bill, as strong lobbying groups line up on the other side. The American Association of Airport Executives says ATC labor groups are "jeopardizing air safety" by opposing the bill, which provides "needed aviation safety and capacity enhancements." The execs, along with the Air Transport Association and the U.S. Contract Tower Association, are trying to rally support for the bill and get it passed ASAP. AOPA says that while it is "disappointed" in some of the bill's provisions, overall it is good for GA and deserves support. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) also is happy that the bill provides some hope for getting GA back into Reagan Washington National Airport, and provides millions of dollars in relief for businesses hurt by the airspace restrictions and other effects from 9/11.