WASHINGTON – Senator Joe Lieberman today registered his strong opposition to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to privatize 2,500 air traffic specialist positions and to close 38 air traffic centers for private pilots nationwide. Air traffic specialists provide flight advisory and weather pattern information to private pilots, and ensure airspace for these aircraft remains safe. In Connecticut, the FAA 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 safety is too important to be farmed out to the lowest bidder,” Lieberman said. “Privatizing over 50 Connecticut air traffic specialist jobs and closing the regional hub in Stratford as the FAA proposes will not only mean lost pay, health care and pension benefits for experienced union workers who have earned these benefits. It could also mean Connecticut’s skies become less safe, as critical services to private pilots are downgraded. “For the sake of air safety and job safety, the FAA privatization plan must not fly,” Lieberman said. Lieberman is co-sponsoring legislation to block implementation of the FAA proposal. Lieberman made his statement as Mike Sheldon, New England regional director of the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS) and NAATS employees based at Sikorsky Airport , gathered in Stratford to protest the FAA plan. A representative from Lieberman’s office participated in the event, which was also attended by State Senator Bill Finch (D-Bridgeport) and other state legislators. 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 temporarily open as the only operating facility providing pertinent flight advisory information and weather reports to pilots in the Northeast. Many of the air traffic specialists at Sikorsky stand to lose their retirement benefits through this plan, as well.