Controller trainees straining air traffic system

May 24, 2011 - 1:43 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the air traffic controllers' union says a large increase in new controllers who need on-the-job training is partly responsible for a surge in errors that bring planes too close together.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi told a Senate panel that controller trainees are placing a serious strain on the nation's air traffic system. However, he said most of the recent 53 percent increase in errors is due to greater use of new technology that can spot previously undetectable instances of planes violating minimum separation distances.

Rinaldi said a new labor-management program that encourages controllers to disclose errors without fear of retribution has played a large role in the increase.

Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt and other transportation officials are also scheduled to testify.