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Safety takes a back seat to cost cutting at FAA

July 24, 2006

Re "Fail-Safe Fails: FAA Looks for Answers," July 20

A simultaneous radar and radio failure is the ultimate nightmare for air traffic controllers. If you think about becoming blind, deaf and mute at the same time, you might relate to that experience.

Thankfully, the air traffic controllers at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center had their wits about them and used their personal cellphones to contact controllers in other facilities and ask for help. It is only through luck, and the skill of professional controllers, that no one was killed or injured in an aviation disaster.

Unfortunately, the situation may become more prevalent if the Federal Aviation Administration continues down the road it is on. The FAA has delayed equipment upgrades and installations, reduced maintenance schedules and allowed staffing levels of air traffic controllers and maintenance technicians to dwindle to unsafe levels.

The road to the lowest bottom line is not the road that leads to safety. Controlling costs is a necessary action for the FAA to take, but not at the expense of safety.

The public needs to question the Bush administration, the FAA and Congress about why safety is taking a back seat to controlling costs.

STEVEN DALE

Secretary, National Air

Traffic Controllers Assn.

Burbank Local

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