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Letters: Skeptical about air traffic delays

One jet departs in view of the air

One jet departs in view of the air traffic control tower at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as another waits on the tarmac in Seattle. (April 23, 2013) Credit: AP Photo Elaine Thompson

I listen with skepticism about the air traffic delays resulting from sequestration ["Immovable lawmakers paralyze our air travel," News, April 26]. Some say it's the Obama administration pushing a political agenda; others say it's a hardship due to an uncompromising Congress.

That notwithstanding, as a former air traffic controller with 15 years of experience in a high-density facility, I can say that 85 percent of the time I worked traffic -- we called it pushing tin -- it was routine or boring. Ten percent was active or engaging, and 5 percent was sheer terror. The terror usually occurred on Thursday and Sunday evenings in the summer, and was associated with thunderstorms or other adverse weather.

Often several controllers were watching TV in the lounge or socializing in the cafeteria with friends. Usually toward the end of the evening shift, several sectors were combined, allowing two controllers to perform the duties of six or eight, so that some could leave early or go to the TV lounge.

If a 10 percent cut in staffing is truly resulting in unacceptable delays, I find it hard to believe. I've heard the spokesman for the controllers union decry the cuts, but is he really concerned with delays or his own bottom line?

Frank McQuade, Miller Place