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Report: Too few traffic controllers in New York region

January 3, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Federal aviation officials have failed to meet their commitment to increase the number of air traffic controllers in the New York region, The New York Times reported Friday.

Almost two years ago, the FAA agreed to increase the number of controllers authorized for the New York Center to 314. At the time, 299 of the 303 authorized positions were filled.

The number of controllers, however, actually decreased to 281, after recruiters had trouble finding qualified workers to apprentice at the Ronkonkoma center, which handles high altitude flights over New York, the Times said.

Controllers at the New York center complain that low staffing levels have put so much pressure on the remaining employees that many are close to burning out.

FAA officials deny that a safety problem exists, but acknowledge that the decline has forced the agency to spend more than it should on overtime pay.

On orders from Congress, FAA officials authorized an increase this week in the number of fully trained controllers and trainers above the old target of 314, saying 335 are now needed. But with 51 trainees and 230 controllers, FAA officials say they will not reach their target until the end of 1998.

A union officials told the Times that it was doubtful the FAA could reach that figure the way things are going now.

``The facility is hurting and its hurting really bad,″ Christopher S. Boughn, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association union local at the center told the Times. ``We’re being continually asked to do more and more and more with less and less and less,″ he said.

The shortage has been chronic in New York since the Reagan administration dismissed striking controllers in 1981 after members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization went on strike over working conditions and pay.

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