...FAA Sends Controllers Home, NATCA Protests...

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The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is at odds yet again with the FAA, this time over the agency's unilateral cancellation of a liaison program. The FAA last week abruptly terminated the program, in what NATCA called "a terse, 79-word fax." The controllers had been working on technical projects such as en route modernization and runway safety technology, NATCA said. Nine controllers will be affected by the decision. FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told AVweb yesterday that the FAA values the expertise and knowledge of the controllers, but felt it wasn't necessary to keep them deployed full-time in Washington, D.C. "What we plan to do is take advantage of their expertise as air traffic controllers, to help staff facilities as fully as we can," she said. The FAA will continue to seek controllers' input on projects on an as-needed basis, she said. NATCA liaisons have previously been described by FAA management as "an integral part in getting many projects deployed" and "an asset to the program," NATCA said. "The move, which comes against the recommendations of the Government Accountability Office and coincides with a House of Representatives' vote against reckless agency cuts, is just the latest attack on the previously productive partnership between air traffic controllers and the FAA," NATCA said.