Newsroom: Press Releases
NJ Senators Announce Hold on Nominee to be FAA Administrator
Problems With Airpsace Redesign, Air Safety in NJ PersistPress Office (202) 224-3224
Thursday, February 07, 2008
WASHINGTON – Today, New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced that they a placing a hold on the nomination of Federal Aviation Administration acting-chief Robert Sturgell to be the agency’s Administrator. The action prevents the nomination from coming to the Senate floor for a vote. Senator Menendez had raised the possibility of placing a hold on the nomination after a sit-down meeting with Sturgell in December, and Senator Lautenberg had the opportunity to question Sturgell in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee today. Both senators have serious concerns about air safety and air traffic in New Jersey.
“The FAA needs a leader with a new perspective and new ideas to improve flight safety and performance,” Senator Lautenberg said. “Mr. Sturgell helped create the policies that left our air traffic controllers overworked and understaffed, our runways in dangerous condition, more air noise on our communities and the worst flight delays in our history. It’s time for President Bush to nominate an Administrator who solves transportation problems, rather than creating more of them.”
“I have raised a number of serious safety and traffic issues with the FAA, and their responses, time and again, have shown minimal concern and a lack of urgency,” said Senator Menendez. “Near misses on the runways and in the air, increased noise for New Jersey residents, not enough experienced air traffic controllers on staff, planes flying into Newark with a minimum amount of fuel left in their tanks – these are issues that require immediate action and answers. My hope is that by holding up this nomination, it will either spark the FAA to get moving on these issues or it will result in a new nominee who grasps the sense of urgency.”
Among the issues concerning the senators that that Lautenberg raised in the committee and Menendez raised in his meeting with Sturgell are:
· Airspace redesign – the FAA chose a plan for new flight paths into and out of Newark Liberty International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport that promises to increase the noise level for thousands of New Jersey residents without substantially reducing flight delays.
· Air traffic controllers – there is serious concern that the not enough air traffic controllers with the experience necessary to manage the nation’s busiest airspace are on staff in the region, but the FAA has only attempted to justify the staffing levels rather than remedying them.
· Near misses – reports of near misses on the runway at Newark and in the air are increasing, which was underscored by a Government Accountability Office report Senator Lautenberg requested that showed that Newark has among the most runway incursions in the nation.
· Minimum fuel landings – both Senators wrote the FAA last year about reports of a dramatic increase in flights coming in to Newark with only a minimum amount of fuel left in the tank, but the FAA still has not been able to produce statistics or an adequate answer.
Lautenberg, a member of the Commerce Committee’s Transportation subcommittee, questioned Sturgell directly on many of these issues at today’s hearing.
Earlier this week, Senator Menendez sent a letter to Sturgell reiterating many of his questions and concerns that linger (http://menendez.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=291851).