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Flight Delays Will Worsen Says NATCA Rep

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A senior controller at one of the West Coast's busiest facilities says sequester-related issues and delays will only get worse as increasing demand meets diminished capacity throughout the system. For the third straight day since one-day-in-10 furloughs have been in place for air traffic controllers, significant delays have been reported at major airports all over the U.S., and Scott Conde, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association at Oakland Center in California, said the true impact has been barely felt. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," he said in a podcast interview. Conde said the sequester-related staffing cuts came between Easter and summer, normally the time when staffing is at its maximum and there's a slight lull in air traffic. Once summer vacations further diminish the ranks of controllers and traffic increases, the delays will almost certainly be much worse. He also expects the stress and long hours experienced by controllers will also start to take their toll, adding to the existing problems.

Conde said there is simply no substitute for manpower to handle the work, so there will be no managerial or technological workarounds for the issues. Under the circumstances, he said, the only tool controllers have to ensure safe separation is to space aircraft farther apart. Conde also noted that since the system is so interdependent, problems at one facility affect operations at all the others.

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