GAO Study Questions Safety of Air Traffic Control System

United Press International

A congressional investigation raised new concerns today about the nation's air traffic control system, concluding there are too few experienced workers to handle a steadily increasing flow of air travel.

An unreleased report by the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, was based on an extensive survey of the controller work force and found that workers' morale and fatigue remain a problem 4 1/2 years after President Reagan fired 11,400 controllers for striking illegally.

Rep. Guy V. Molinari (R-N.Y.), a critic of the Federal Aviation Administration, said the study is "a serious indictment of the air traffic control system. . . . I have concluded that the system is not safe."

During the last few months, congressional investigators sent questionnaires to 4,500 radar-qualified controllers and 1,000 supervisors. About 75% responded to the survey.

Seventy percent of the controllers said they have been taking care of more air traffic at peak periods than they should, Molinari said.

"The controllers indicated the system is safe," Molinari said. "However, when asked about a variety of factors, such as flow control, manager-employee relations, morale and forced overtime, their answers reflect a much different story.

"About 90% of the controllers are saying these conditions have a negative impact on the safety of the system."

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