...Hearing Considers Safety Report...

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

The compromise was offered on the eve of a formal hearing on the safety of the contract tower program. On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Aviation examined a recent report by the Department of Transportation's Inspector General Ken Mead, which stated that contract towers are much less expensive to run than government-staffed towers and report fewer errors. During testimony, the validity of the safety statistics in both FAA and contract towers was challenged by National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President John Carr. He said the Inspector General's report itself recognized weaknesses in the data because error reporting in both types of towers is voluntary and there are no standards and methods established to verify the reports. The value of the safety comparisons is also challenged by the General Accounting Office (GAO), which reviewed the report at the request of Oberstar. The GAO said there were "several potential limitations" with the safety data. "Comparisons of operational errors among types of air traffic control facilities ... cannot be used alone to provide valid conclusions about safety ..." the GAO summary says in part. It also says the data can't be used to draw conclusions about which type of tower is safer. Of course Mead had his chance to defend the report and FAA Administrator Marion Blakey was also to be on the witness stand, but we were unable to get their testimony before our deadline.