FAA Focus On NextGen Obscures Real Issues Says NATCA
The FAA's repeated reference to the need to modernize the air traffic control system is a smokescreen designed to divert attention from problems with the existing system, according to the head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Pat Forrey told a transportation forum in Dallas last week that while controllers love new technology and embrace it at every chance, poor morale and a severe staffing shortage are the most immediate concerns. "So before we as a nation turn our full attention to NextGen, and the future aviation system we hope to enjoy, we must work to ensure that the system we have to use today Ö remains the safest in the world and one where no corners are cut in a foolish rush to institute business agendas over safety practices," he said. NATCA is pulling for the same version of the FAA reauthorization bill that general aviation groups are supporting -- but for different reasons. The bill, H.R.2881, would not impose user fees on GA but, in its current form, would force the FAA and NATCA back to the bargaining table to settle the contract dispute that ended with an imposed deal last September. Most House Republicans are opposed to that clause and itís likely to cause some fur to fly when the bill hits the floor. Meanwhile, the union continues to cite examples of understaffing at various facilities, including Las Vegas, where it claims the number of trainees will soon be greater than the number of certified controllers.