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Lautenberg Lays Out Plan to Stop Bush Admin. from Privatizing Air Traffic Control System and Putting Flying Public at Risk
Friday, August 01, 2003Washington, D.C. – During a press conference today, United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg slammed President Bush for his attempts to place air travelers at further risk by trying to privatize the nation's Air Traffic Controller system. Lautenberg pledged a forceful assault to reverse the outcome of the FAA Reauthorization Conference Report that removed his language, which would have protected air traffic controllers from privatization.
"On September 11th our nation's professional and dedicated air traffic controllers performed heroically, as they guided thousands of aircraft out of the sky in a few hours without a single incident. But now, less than two years after their heroic feat, President Bush is looking to fire them, said Lautenberg. "The President wants to turn their jobs over to the private sector. That plan won't fly with the public."
In mid-June, the Senate passed Lautenberg's amendment to the FAA Reauthorization bill to block any attempt to privatize the air traffic control system by a vote of 56-41 with 11 Republicans supporting the amendment. The House included similar language in its FAA bill. But in conference, the Bush Administration threatened to veto the bill if it impacted their privatization plan. Republicans on the conference agreed to gut the air traffic control provisions and allow the Bush privatization plan to move forward. No Democrat signed this conference report. It is now pending for action in both houses of Congress.
"This week we heard that the Administration wanted to cut back on the number of Air Marshals on planes, and here they are trying to farm out the entire federal air traffic control system to the lowest bidder. There are some things we can do to save money, but security on the cheap is not what the American people want," Lautenberg said.
Lautenberg told reporters that he is putting the President on notice that the nation's security is not for sale, and he – along with many of his colleagues – will do all they can to stop this dangerous plan from taking effect. "After 9-11, the public wanted security in the skies to be a top priority. The public said no to cutting air marshals and will say no to privatizing our air traffic control system," noted Lautenberg.
A fact sheet is attached to this release.
Air Traffic Control Privatization In the FAA Reauthorization Conference Report
FAA BILL H.R. 2115 PREVENTS PRIVATIZATION OF AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS?
Senate version Yes, and exempts smaller airports in the "Contract Tower Program." Also prevents privatization of certification and maintenance technicians and flight service station controllers. (Floor vote: 56-41, including eleven Republicans).
House version Yes, and exempts smaller airports in the "Contract Tower Program."
Conference Report/White House language No. Eliminates air traffic controller protection after 4 years, and explicitly expands privatization to 71 FAA towers (except in Alaska). Permits immediate privatization of Federal certification and maintenance technicians and flight service station controllers.
Other countries have tried privatizing air traffic control and the results have been disastrous:
In Great Britain, since privatization, near misses of crashes or other problems have increased by 50%. Delays caused by air traffic control have increased by 20%. The air traffic system's finances have also been mismanaged to the point where debt service has increased by 80%.
"The privatisation of the United Kingdom's air traffic control system was a grave mistake, and one that the United States can still avoid making. British Air Traffic Controllers are among the best in the world, and they fought tooth and nail to keep ATC in the public sector. They insisted that the sale of the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) would lead to a collapse in morale, the unwise introduction of inadequate and unreliable equipment, and an increasing danger of catastrophic accidents. The Government did not listen and went ahead. They were wrong and the Air Traffic Controllers were right." -- Gwyneth Dunwoody, MP Chair, Transport Subcommittee British House of Commons
Canada's privatized system has run up a $145 million deficit just in the past year. As a result, an assessment will be tacked on to every airline ticket purchased there.
Australia is planning to increase fees to pay for its private system.
The FAA Reauthorization Conference Report would specifically open up 11 of the 50 busiest airport control towers in the country to the possibility of immediate privatization, including:
8. Van Nuys, CA 18. Denver/Centennial, CO 24. Phoenix/Deer Valley Municipal, AZ 31. Long Beach/Daughtery, CA 32. Orlando/Sanford, FL 33. Prescott/EA Love Field, AZ 35. Tulsa/Riverside, OK 41. Mesa/Falcon Field, AZ 42. Seattle/Boeing Field, WA 43. Grand Forks International, ND 46. Pontiac/Oakland County International, MI