FAA/NATCA Tensions Mount...

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Agency Holds 20 News Conferences

The next stage of contract negotiations between the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association unfolded Tuesday as the two sides traded proposals in Washington. But the actual negotiations took a back seat to the massive public-relations and political campaign being waged between them. The FAA held news conferences in 20 cities on Tuesday to explain its general stance on the negotiations (that the existing deal is too expensive and gives too much control to the, uh, controllers) and to point out just how well-paid controllers are. As part of the organization of the conferences, FAA Deputy Administrator for Communications Greg Martin issued 12 pages of instructions to those conducting the regional news conferences. NATCA got hold of the instructions and distributed them to various media outlets. Martin said the speaking notes and suggested answers for anticipated questions are standard in his business. "I absolutely make no apologies for any of the material," he told AVweb. Martin said the news conferences were aimed at assuring passengers, businesses and local governments throughout the country that the FAA and its controllers would continue to do their jobs through the negotiation process. "We're going to keep the focus where it needs to be and that's on moving planes safely and efficiently," he said.