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Union: Half of air control towers insecure

By Kathleen Koch
CNN Washington Bureau Kathleen Koch Kathleen Koch

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A union representing many of the nation's air traffic controllers called Tuesday for tighter security at air traffic control facilities nationwide, saying unescorted visitors can get inside some towers and vehicles can drive up to their bases.

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The National Air Traffic Controllers Association asked for armed guards and better identification cards at all 325 Federal Aviation Administration-controlled facilities. It also accused the FAA of not doing enough to make all facilities more secure.

While security is adequate at control towers and centers at major airports, 180 smaller towers need improvement, NATCA said.

"It is vitally important that the FAA make extra efforts to guard air traffic control facilities because our national security is at stake," NATCA President John Carr said in a statement.

"We want to ensure everything possible is done to protect our responsibility to oversee the National Airspace System."

Employees do not wear ID badges at some towers, Carr said; at others unescorted visitors can get inside, and at some vehicles can drive up to their bases.

NATCA also accused the FAA of not moving quickly enough to make all towers more secure.

"I'd like for our controllers to feel much more secure doing their jobs," Carr said. "They should be watching their radar scopes, not watching their backs."

The FAA responded that it has increased security at many air traffic facilities since the September 11 attacks. The agency issued a statement saying it is placing additional guards at facilities and making other security improvements, such as re-validating employee identification.

Aviation experts contend that even if intruders were able to get inside a control tower and disrupt operations, the nation's air traffic control system is designed with multiple backups so that other facilities could pick up control of the affected air space.

There have not been any specific threats against air traffic control facilities since the attacks, but the security measures are still needed, NATCA spokesman Doug Church said.

"Let's not wait until something happens," he said.


• National Air Traffic Controllers Association
• Federal Aviation Administration

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