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Amendment Would Keep Flight Centers Open

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The fate of the Buffalo Flight Service Center is in the hands of the US House of Representatives. An amendment was expected to be voted on Thursday that -- if approved -- would stop the closing of 38 flight service centers across the US.

The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to consolidate and privatize all 58 of its flight service centers. The FAA has a contract with Lockheed Martin to privatize 20 centers. The rest would be closed, including the Buffalo Flight Service Center. It is slated to shut down by 2007.

The center, located on Aero Drive, provides various services to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Thirty-four local workers would lose their jobs if the center closes.

The Professional Airways Systems Specialists -- known as PASS -- is the union that represents the employees. Bruce Milroy, the local union representative, says they don't believe that it is about saving money. They think it is only to eliminate the public employees.

"We are concerned with the safety aspect to the National Aero Space System," Milroy said. "Private contracts would allow for search and rescue operations, location of military aircraft and weather briefings for general aviation pilots. That is the work we provide, but now it would be maintained by private contractors."

The FAA says the changes would save about $2.2 billion in the next 10 years. But Milroy says the union believes consolidating and privatizing will be a dangerous step.

"Our main concern is the safety of the flying public," Milroy said. "But for the subcontractors, their main concern is the bottom dollar. So you get safety at the best price, not safety for safety's sake."

The amended bill that was to appear before the Housewould prevent privatization and stop the closures of the flight service stations.