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Clay, Costello Renew Opposition to Private Air Control

St. Louis Rep. William Lacy Clay (KWMU photo)
St. Louis Rep. William Lacy Clay (KWMU photo)

By Bill Raack, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – U.S. congressmen William "Lacy" Clay of St. Louis and Jerry Costello of Belleville reiterated their opposition Tuesday to privatizing air traffic control operations at some small airports.

Legislation before Congress would allow a program which contracts with private companies to run control towers at 69 airfields, including Spirit of St. Louis Airport and Cahokia/St. Louis Airport. Clay says that would be dangerous.

"That approach was tried with passenger screeners in airports and met with poor results," Clay said. "The quality of service diminished and passenger safety was reduced."

The Federal Aviation Administration backs the privatization plan, saying that it would save money and airports would be as safe as they are today.

Lonnie Vance, an air traffic controller in St. Louis, says replacing his colleagues at 69 smaller airfields around the country is unwise.

"The Bush administration has put Spirit of St. Louis Airport and St. Louis Downtown Airport on the list of towers that he immediately wants to privatize. And that's an outrage because we know how busy these towers are," he said. "Spirit of St. Louis is one of the top 50 busiest towers in the country and the second busiest in Missouri."

The air traffic controllers union is running television and radio ads urging people to contact members of Congress about the privatization issue.