Immediate Impact: Delays, Safety Concerns

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One of NATCA's bargaining chips through negotiations and the 60-day period of congressional consideration was that the last best offer by the FAA, which theoretically is in the process of being imposed on the union, will actually cost the top echelon of controllers money. If those most experienced controllers continue working, changes to location pay and other bonuses would ultimately have a negative effect on their pensions. Carr claims that 25 percent of the workforce, 4,000 controllers, virtually all of them the most experienced and knowledgeable members, will opt for retirement rather than stay on. He told us he'd already heard from some who were doing just that. "Air traffic controllers are heading for the exits," he said. The result, he said, will be traffic delays and, inevitably, safety concerns. Carr said that as traffic increases and the number of controllers decreases the system will lose "elasticity." Although the FAA has announced plans to hire 12,500 controllers over the next 10 years, Carr said it won't be enough. "She [Administrator Marion Blakey] can't hire and train them fast enough."