Contract Controllers "Safe"

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Private-sector air traffic controllers are as highly trained as their federal counterparts, have a better safety record, and many are more experienced, says the president of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. In a letter sent to AVweb, Ron Taylor dismisses the "doomsday" predictions of those opposing the expansion of the Federal Contract Tower (FCT) program -- a program initiated at smaller airports in 1982. Under the current version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill that will go to Congress in September, the FAA has the ability to expand the FCT program to 69 more towers currently under FAA control. Taylor claims safety concerns raised by some are a red herring in the debate. "The qualifications to be an air traffic controller at the control towers of 'small town' USA are equal to those [who] wear a federal badge," said Taylor. "I will not debate the issue of privatization but I will defend the professional controllers who have manned those facilities over the past 22 years and their excellent safety record, which is better than that of the federal sector." Meanwhile, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association continues its campaign to reverse the contracting-out clause. "... We firmly believe that no city should be relegated to second-class treatment when it comes to air safety and funding," the association said in a statement.