Local Lawmaker Concerned About Aviation Safety

The House Aviation Subcommittee recently met to examine aviation safety, particularly in light of last month's deadly commuter plane crash in Kentucky. A Houston-area lawmaker brought his concerns about air traffic controller staffing to Federal officials at the witness table. Max Cacas has more from Capitol Hill.

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"Bush Intercontinental Airport is in my District and the home of Continental Airlines...."

Congressman Ted Poe, a Republican, says that he recently met with air traffic controllers who work at Bush airport, and he's troubled by what they are telling him.

"Bush Intercontinental Airport is the 4th fastest growing airport in the world and it recently opened its 5th runway and traffic continues to increase to about 1700 operations everyday. Bush Intercontinental Airport is authorized to have 42 controllers. They have 29. They need at least 28 to fully staff throughout every day. This means they have one extra staffer to cover if someone gets sick or goes on vacation."

Nicholas Sabatini, head of aviation safety for the Federal Aviation Administration, didn't respond directly to Poe's concerns about Bush airport, but says nationwide, a new group of controllers will begin work at the end of this month.

"the hiring is moving along at a very brisk pace, in fact instead of hiring the 930 people we had originally planned to hire, we're going to hire 11-hundred people."

And while Sabattini wouldn't say if any of the new controllers would be working at Bush Airport, he did feel that the nation has enough controllers to keep the skies safe.

For Houston Public Radio, I'm Max Cacas on Capitol Hill.

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