11:16 PM

An Accident Waiting
to Happen

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has been screaming for months about deplorable working conditions at FAA's air traffic facilities across the country. In a nutshell, FAA requires too much for too little from today's controllers, making them work without a contract to the point of fatigue on extra shifts inside decaying, understaffed facilities. Now, as CNN and Associated Press are reporting widely, the "heckuva job" that Bush's cronies are doing at FAA might lead to dead bodies if something isn't done:

There is "a high risk of a catastrophic runway collision occurring in the United States," congressional investigators concluded Wednesday. They cited faltering federal leadership, malfunctioning technology and overworked traffic controllers as reasons for the danger.
The Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, said "no single office is taking charge of assessing the causes of runway safety problems and taking the steps needed to address those problems," in a report that was requested by Rep. Jerry F. Costello, D-Illinois, and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-New Jersey.

Considering how embarrassed the White House should be today for getting caught red-handed lying about Iran's developing (or not) nukyoulear programs, I'd love to see the White House Press spokesperson du jour trying to spin their way out of this...from the CNN/AP story:
This year has seen dramatic near-collisions. On August 16, two commercial jets carrying 296 people came within 37 feet of colliding at Los Angeles International. A Delta Boeing 757 touched down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on July 11 and had to take off again immediately to avoid hitting a United Airbus A320 mistakenly on its runway. A Delta Boeing 737 landing at New York's LaGuardia airport on July 5 narrowly missed a commuter jet that was mistakenly cleared to cross its runway.
I want to stand up and cheer for CNN and AP finally landing on NATCA's bandwagon on this. Like everything else in The Decider's administration, his agency that oversees those pressurized tubes full of taxpayers is a real mess, so says the people who keep those tubes separated:
Citing the safety board and GAO concerns about fatigue, NATCA president Patrick Forrey asked, "How much more do we have to hear before the FAA is held accountable for the blatant disregard for safety it is showing by understaffing its facilities, working controllers past their breaking points and refusing to work with us to settle an ongoing contract negotiating impasse that has created the largest mass exodus of both veteran controllers and trainees we have seen since 1981?"
Good question, Patrick. And in a NATCA release recently, the problem is spelled out even more clearerly...in language The Decider can certainly understand:
“The facts are crystal clear: Both the NTSB and the GAO are now on record saying controller fatigue affects runway safety. And now the GAO has said fatigue is created by working overtime, which in turn is necessitated by staffing shortages. Furthermore, the Department of Transportation Inspector General last February cited the breakdown in contract talks as the reason so many controllers left the FAA last year. This is game, set and match. There is nowhere else the FAA can run and hide from this staffing crisis and deny its existence."
We all know where this is headed if it's not fixed NOW. But as per usual with the public versus The Decider, there is nothing anyone can do about it until January 2009 when this nightmare will officially be over. Until then, all you can really do is pray that when the inevitable happens, you won't be in seat 13D holding a cup of luke warm soda pop and a bag of stale pretzels.

You Might Also Like