Goboeing--is right on!
Im an FAA air traffic controller (with a contract tower in my airspace) in central Texas and was thinking about starting this topic.
When you have a private company operating a contract tower the motivating factor is money and profit. Its not training. Controllers don't become controllers over night. It may take anywhere from 2 to 5 years to become a fully certified controller, depending on what type of facility you are working. Do you think a contract company wants to devote that much time to make sure some knows how to do the job.
Facility maintenance can be lacking. The contract tower I work with on a daily basis has had a frequency down for maintenance for over 4 years. It just became operational a few months ago. When we found out it was back we all laughed. A lot of us didn't even know it existed.
Staffing--Most (if not all) contract towers are operated with minimal staffing. If the controller goes down the tubs, oh well, you just have to work you way out of it and hope everything goes ok. It doesn't always go ok, though. 2 mid-airs in the Chicago area, at VFR contract towers can attest to that. Now everyone is suing everyone involved, including the FAA, for lack of oversight.
No age limit--Watch out if you fly into contract tower airspace. Your controller may be 75 years old.
It comes down to this.
When you go in for surgery do you want you surgeon to be well trained and at the top of his game? Do you expect that he is focused on you and the situation and not thinking about how much he has to go to the bathroom or how hungry he is. You trust that he has all the people around him he needs to get the job done. You hope he has all the technology (and that its operational) to do his job. You hope he has your best interests at heart and isn't thinking about how tired he is or that its been 3 hrs since his last break.
You could insert air traffic controller there now couldn't you. I know surgeons are not Federal Employees but you have a choice in surgeons. You don't have a choice in your air traffic controller. Hell, you don't even get to meet the guy know that we cant have visitors (9/11).
This is just the beginning. The Bush administration wants to contract out 69 towers in this country. Some of these are some of the busiest towers in the world. Places like Denver Centennial, Van Nuys, Pontiac and SFB
NOT JOKE! These are very busy places, just as busy if not busier than JFK
What the contract tower companies really want is to win government contracts and then cut, through understaffing and other means, pocketing the rest.
You can call
The system is set up by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
It will ask you, your zip code and then walk you through the process of informing your Congressmen or woman/Representative of your views on the subject. It will then transfer you to the Representatives office. It only takes 3 minutes and all you need to do is let you Rep know you live in thier state, you vote and that contracting of ATC concerns you and to not support any effort to privatize or contract out the nations air traffic control system.
Contracting is NOT GOOD for our ATC system and your representative needs to know it.