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Higgins Presses for Multiple Staffing at Major Airport Air Traffic Control Towers | News

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Higgins Presses for Multiple Staffing at Major Airport Air Traffic Control Towers
Higgins Presses for Multiple Staffing at Major Airport Air Traffic Control Towers

Congressman Hopes Review Provides Controllers Needed Support and Passengers Peace of Mind

In a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), a member of the new Congressional Aviation Safety Caucus, is pressing for increased staffing in air traffic control towers. 

“Air traffic controllers are under considerable pressure in a job where the safety of the flying public is in their hands each and every day,” said Higgins.  “They deserve reasonable backup and certainly the flying public deserves to know someone will always be there to guide their plane through the flight and to a safe landing.”

Higgins noted that the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has previously raised the red flag on what they are calling “a nation-wide staffing crisis.” According to the NATCA, “As of March 31, 2009, there were 11,219 fully certified controllers, 27% below the scientifically-based staffing standard jointly authorized by the FAA and NATCA in 1998 and a 16-year low.”   In 2009 testimony before the House Aviation Subcommittee the NATCA Safety & Technology Director warns of the impact of these staffing levels, “As a result, shifts often operated with less than the optimal number of controllers, necessitating the combining of positions. According to an April 2009 report by the DOT Inspector General, the "FAA faces an increasing risk of not having enough fully certified controllers in its workforce."   The NATCA further reports, “Because of the burden the staffing crises has put on the workforce, controller fatigue has become a serious concern”. 

Following the crash of Flight 3407 in Western New York, Congressman Higgins worked closely with victims’ families to enact sweeping new aviation safety requirements for pilots and airlines which included new transparencies for regional carriers, increased training for pilots and new policies to protect against pilot fatigue.  A timeline of Congressman Higgins aviation safety efforts is available at: http://higgins.house.gov/faa.pdf.

“I worked on air safety for a long time on the pilot and aircraft side, but we can't let those advances in safety be undermined by lack of adequate staffing in towers,” added Higgins.  “I support an expedient review and hope and expect that it will conclude what common sense already concludes - that at least 2 controllers are needed per tower, for reasons like this one where someone falls asleep or in the case of a medical emergency, security breach, or any other unforeseen circumstance.”

Congressman Higgins is currently a member of the Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees and previously served on the Ways and Means and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.



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