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International federation sounds US airspace warning

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David Cockroft

David Cockroft

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) today warned that the operation of the USA’s National Airspace System is being put in danger by compulsory furloughing (being put on involuntary leave) of Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control staff. The furloughs are taking place as part of federal ‘sequestration’ cost-cutting, despite the long-standing recognition that air traffic control cannot arbitrarily lose staff at times of high traffic.

Speaking from the IFATCA (International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations) conference in Indonesia, ITF general secretary David Cockroft said: “This is not a labour dispute – it’s an unprecedented measure that should be gravely worrying to everyone in the aviation community. The removal of staff, especially at peak traffic flow periods means that it’s not just punctuality and efficiency being put at risk here, but, potentially, safety too.”

He continued: “The ITF strongly urges that these furloughs be halted. The hazards of any other course of action could be just too great.”


You may also find the following statements from Natca, the US National Air Traffic Controllers Association helpful:

From NATCA: As the exclusive representative of air traffic controllers, traffic manager coordinators, U.S. NOTAM Specialists, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) engineers, aircraft certification professionals, and other aviation safety professionals, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) believes that the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration will be detrimental to the National Airspace System (NAS), as well as to the nation’s fragile economy. All users and operators of the NAS including travelers, general aviation pilots, airlines, businesses and the military will feel the effects of the cuts in the form of a reduction in airport and air traffic control services, a diminishing of the NAS’s flight capacity, increased delays and costs to users, and lags in air traffic modernization. These cuts will be significant, and their effects will likely have long-lasting consequences.


CONTACTS: Doug Church, 301-346-8245; Sarah Dunn, 315-796-1560

The current furloughs of air traffic controllers may be due to unique and unusual circumstances but after a single day of delays throughout the aviation system, it’s clear they should be halted immediately. On Sunday, the first day of the furloughs, lengthy delays at major airports in New York and Los Angeles inconvenienced passengers and contributed to further delays across the country despite mostly good weather and flying conditions. The delays could have been worse had the controllers not stayed after their shifts at key facilities like LAX Tower and Atlanta Terminal Radar Approach Control. Controllers did their jobs yesterday by keeping things moving safely, and as best they could manage during these unusual circumstances, efficiently.

Even with the hard work and dedication of controllers forced to cover for their furloughed colleagues, delays are expected to worsen throughout the week. Rather than allowing the world’s safest and most efficient national airspace system to slowly degrade, steps should be taken to cancel or postpone the furloughs until a solution that keeps controllers on the job full time can be found.

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