James R. Carroll's: Notes from Washington
Louisville Courier-Journal
September 17, 2006

The first congressional hearing focusing on issues raised by last month's Comair crash is scheduled for this week.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure's aviation subcommittee is set to hold a hearing Wednesday.

Witnesses are expected to include officials with the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Government Accountability Office and Department of Transportation's inspector general's office. Names of witnesses had not yet been released late Friday.

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., is chairman of the subcommittee.

In a recent interview with The Courier-Journal, Mica was asked about the National Air Traffic Controllers Association's contention that FAA facilities are understaffed and that the agency is ill-prepared for the wave of controller retirements coming.

"Are positions being filled and trained (for) as expeditiously as I would like? I'd say, to a degree," Mica said. "It could be better."

Rep. Ben Chandler, D-6th District, is on the panel and is expected to focus his questioning on air traffic controller staffing. He said last week that the crash raised serious questions about air safety.

Only one controller was on duty in the Blue Grass Airport's tower at the time of the Aug. 27 crash, which killed 49 of 50 people on board Flight 5191.