...Controllers Take The Hill

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Today and Tuesday, hundreds of air traffic controllers are in Washington for their annual show of lobbying strength, and their message this year is that a staffing crisis is fast approaching. In a news release, the National Association of Air Traffic Controllers (NATCA) says the controller shortage is an accepted reality throughout the federal agencies involved. "We must act now to hire and train more controllers to avert a looming shortage," NATCA said. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D.-N.J.) brought that message to his constituents in a news conference last Thursday. He told reporters that delays and congestion are likely if there aren't enough controllers. He said Newark-Liberty International's tower is supposed to have 40 controllers but now has 29, six of whom will be eligible to retire in five years. Lautenberg said that since it takes five or six years to properly train a controller, now is the time to start hiring new ones. Lautenberg called the potential shortage "a significant security concern."