FAA, controllers strike tentative deal

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association have struck a tentative deal to extend the controllers' contract for two years.

Under the existing five-year agreement, which expires in September, controllers were given pay raises that, insiders believe, paved the way for a good working relationship with the FAA. With the extension, they will receive the same raises as other federal employees.

"With the enormous amount of work we are doing with the FAA on a wide array of subjects ... it was vitally important to us to resolve the issue of our collective bargaining agreement as efficiently as possible," NATCA President John Carr said in a Jan. 7 news release.

The FAA employs about 24,000 controllers, who rely on computer systems to manage traffic and provide information to pilots in the air and on the ground.

Many of the controllers hired to replace the thousands who were fired following a strike in 1981 are, or soon will be, eligible for retirement. The list of potential retirees includes frontline supervisors and controllers at some of the nation's busiest air traffic control facilities.

To deal with the attrition, NATCA and the FAA plan to work on a new staffing agreement, Carr said.

"It's critically important to the continued safety and efficiency of the system that we have enough qualified and trained controllers working," he said.

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