Federal Employees News Digest

NATCA says furloughs could pose air safety risk

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association this month sent a letter to congressional leaders warning that while controllers still remain on duty, the furloughs of other aviation personnel could threaten air safety.

"No one should be under the illusion that it is business as usual for air traffic control under a shutdown," stated the letter to lawmakers from NATCA President Paul Rinaldi. "Even though air traffic controllers and other aviation safety professionals have been maintaining the safety of the system, this furlough is rapidly eliminating the layers of redundancy and safety that we rely on."

In the letter, the group maintained that air traffic controllers are part of "a complex team" that also includes support staff such as air traffic support staff specialists, aviation technical systems specialists, and infrastructure, equipment and construction engineers—all of whom have been furloughed. 

"These men and women must work together with our certified professional controllers for the [National Airspace System] to function at top safety and efficiency," the letter said. "We wouldn’t ask a surgeon to perform an operation without the assistance of a support team, and we shouldn’t be asking air traffic controllers to continue working traffic error-free without support staff. Today we are asking our controllers to maintain the safety and efficiency of the system without the necessary contribution of 3,000 safety professionals."

NATCA noted that sequestration already has hobbled the system by forcing the Federal Aviation Administration into a hiring freeze, rendering it unable to replace controllers who have retired—and that the shutdown has brought training to a halt for new hires made before the sequester took effect. Both those issues may lead to an eventual staffing shortage, the letter said. 

To see more, go to: www.natca.org/news.aspx?zone=Top%20News&nID=6535#n6535.

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