NATCA: US air traffic controllers leaving jobs at record pace

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US are traffic controllers are quitting or retiring at an even faster clip so far in fiscal year 2008 than the record outflow set the previous year, union officials say.

The US FAA’s pool of experienced controllers continued to dwindle at a rate of 6.2 per day from 1 October to 5 January, says Patrick Forrey, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, who spoke with ATI on the sidelines of an Aero Club of Washington luncheon today.

That decline greatly exceeds the rate of more than 4 retirements per day for controllers in FY2007, he adds.

NATCA currently represents 11,000 certified controllers and 3,700 controller trainees, and is locked in a nearly two-year-old contract dispute with the US FAA.

New work rules imposed since the FAA broke off contract talks with NATCA has “directly resulted” in the decline of controllers to a 15-year low, he adds.

“In order to cope with the shortage [of controllers], the FAA is calling in regular overtime and operating shifts without proper staffing, including some of the nation’s busiest facilities,” Forrey told the Aero Club audience.

The simmering contract dispute is one of the top reasons why the US Congress has been unable to pass legislation that re-authorizes the FAA’s funding and approves new funds for long-term, $17 billion plan called NextGen to modernize the air traffic control system.

NATCA is demanding that the FAA must return to the bargaining table before the authorization bill can be passed.

Moreover, the union also opposes key issues in the NextGen modernization plan. In his speech today, Forrey also called on Congress to launch a review of NextGen before any new funds are spent.