Privatization is unsafe

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2002

The safety of the flying public is air traffic controllers' scared trust. That is why we are deeply concerned about the looming threat coming from the administration: Privatization of our air traffic control system.

Privatization is a risky scheme that puts profits ahead of safety. It failed in airport security and is now failing for air traffic control in Great Britain. The outlook for Canada and Australia is poor because of similar financial problems, declining controller morale, bad working conditions and reduced staffing levels.

Privatization advocates cite safety and efficiency gains, but the proof is not there. In fact, Great Britain's system is responsible for close to half of Europe's flight delays, and Canada's error rate far exceeds that of the United States despite handling just 9 percent as much traffic as U.S. controllers.

Contrast that to the United States, where controller errors fell 11 percent in the last year, the first time we've seen a reduction since 1997. Runway incursions fell 12 percent from 2000 to 2001 and are down more than 30 percent this year. Furthermore, while air traffic is down 7 percent since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, flight delays have fallen 36.5 percent.

We are proud to maintain the world's safest, most efficient and most sophisticated air traffic control system. The safety of the flying public should never be for sale to the lowest bidder.

William Zimmerman

President, Juneau Local National Air Traffic Controller Association

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