Lieberman Disagrees With Decision On Air Traffic Specialists

WASHINGTON – Senator Joe Lieberman registered his strong opposition Friday to Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey’s decision to allow for the privatization of 2,500 air traffic specialists. Fifty Connecticut jobs and a regional hub in Stratford are at stake.

The National Association of Air Traffic Specialists had appealed to the Administrator to reverse an earlier FAA decision to privatize the positions and close 38 air traffic centers for private pilots nationwide. In Connecticut, the plan could mean the loss of over 50 jobs and the transfer to Virginia of the regional hub now located at Sikorsky Airport in Stratford.

Air traffic specialists provide flight advisory and weather pattern information to private pilots and ensure airspace for these aircraft remains safe.

“This is an unfortunate decision that will downgrade critical services for private pilots, and in doing so, jeopardize air safety over Connecticut,” Lieberman said. “Air safety is too important to be subject to private sector pressures. I will do everything I can to ensure this ill-advised privatization does not proceed.”

In addition to safety concerns, privatizing the air traffic specialist jobs and closing the Stratford hub will mean lost pay, health care, and pension benefits for experienced union workers who have earned these benefits.

Lieberman has previously expressed his opposition to the FAA decision and, with the entire Connecticut delegation, wrote to Administrator Blakey asking that the decision be reversed. He is also co-sponsoring legislation to block implementation of the FAA proposal and is working with key Senators to block funding for the implementation contained in the Fiscal Year 2006 transportation spending bill.

Should the plan take effect, over 50 union employees at Sikorsky Airport stand to lose their jobs effective October 1, or may be offered jobs elsewhere in the country. Other air traffic specialist locations in Maine, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey will also be closed, leaving a location in Long Island as the only operating facility providing pertinent flight advisory information and weather reports to pilots in the Northeast.