Who says you can rid of inches

Body Wrap amongrp at asianet.co.th
Fri Aug 19 04:18:50 GMT 2005

Dear  Subscriber

"You're really dealing with people who are overworked, low morale, stressed out," said Hamid Ghaffari, the union representative at the center in Palmdale which handles high-altitude aircraft in Southern California and parts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah. "Boy, that's not a good mixture for air traffic controllers."

The FAA says the recent close calls resulted from human error unrelated to working conditions. The union's claims are nothing more than a negotiating ploy, said FAA spokesman Greg Martin. The current contract expires Sept. 30, though it would still be in effect so that controllers don't stop working.

"We all know what's going on," Martin said. "We're in the middle of contract negotiations. It's a press release a day with each one being more outlandish than the last one."

The federal government and controllers union have a history of discord dating back decades - President Reagan fired more than 10,000 controllers who illegally walked off the job in 1981.

Controllers' gripes may be contract related, but their warnings of faulty equipment are legitimate, according to aviation analyst Mike Boyd said.

"By and large, when they say things are not as safe as they need to be, take it to the bank," said Boyd, president of Colorado-based The Boyd Group. "I can understand their frustration."

The numbers suggest the nation's aviation safety system is in good shape.

No major airplane crashes have occurred in the U.S. since November 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587 lost its tail and plunged into a New York City neighborhood, killing 265 people. Runway safety violations during the first 10-plus months of the 2005 fiscal year totaled 277, compared to 295 during the same period in 2004, preliminary FAA statistics show.

At the same time, those data show that "operational errors" - for example, when two airplanes get too close in the air - have increased over the same span from 988 to 1,308. Air traffic safety statistics may be unreliable, however, because in many cases, controllers report their own errors.

Controllers claim that numbers do not tell the whole story.

A highly touted anti-collision system failed to warn of a near-collision recently at New York's Kennedy Airport. The system also hasn't worked properly in Boston because, controllers point out, it shifts into limited mode during bad weather.

FAA spokesman Martin said the anti-collision system, which has been in place for four years at the nation's top 34 airports, is just one component of the runway safety system - with pilots and controllers remaining the backbone.

That's the point, according to controllers who complain of understaffing.

A prime example is Los Angeles Center, where the two safety problems occurred during the past week, said Ghaffari, the facility's union representative. 

The control center is authorized to employ 310 controllers but has just 217 certified personnel and 48 trainees, including 21 who can do very little because they are brand new to the job,

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