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Mon, Apr 05, 2004

NATCA Condemns Dominican Republic ATC Strike

Says Government Is To Blame

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association today condemned the actions of the government in the Dominican Republic to lock out its air traffic controller workforce and replace it with unqualified controllers, a move that has resulted in serious safety concerns for that country and also increased demands on US controllers working in Miami who handle the airspace around that Caribbean region.

"Using uncertified, unqualified controllers creates a serious hazard to aircraft," NATCA Executive Vice President Ruth Marlin said. "The actions of the government in the Dominican Republic are, at best, reckless. Not only is the government refusing to negotiate working conditions with its controllers, it has put the safety of its air traffic control system in jeopardy and we strongly condemn both of these actions."

Operations at the control center in Santo Domingo were turned over to the military. In addition, the Punta Cana International Airport, not wanting to risk safety at one of the country’s busiest airports, has canceled its operation until the situation is resolved. Several other smaller airports were also closed.

US controllers at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center were forced to hold traffic into the Dominican Republic for over five hours Wednesday. The action affected 20 flights. Later in the day, to maximize safety, the center increased the spacing between flights entering the Dominican Republic’s airspace.

"Our concern for air safety extends beyond the US borders and we cannot sit silently by while it is jeopardized by the dangerous actions of a foreign government," Marlin stated. "We would urge the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation to caution air travelers considering visiting the Dominican Republic."



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