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Questions on air safety hover

Travelers may be getting used to the five-week-old air controllers strike, but serious questions remain about air safety and the future of the nation's air traffic system.

These questions, reports Monitor correspondent Brad Knickerbocker, were highlighted in testimony before the House government operations subcommittee on transportation which began Sept. 9 on capitol Hill.

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In a presentation contrasting sharply with government officials' assertions, the Aviation Safety Institute said it "has been besieged with hazard reports since Aug. 3" (the day the strike began). "Our latest count shows over 350 reports during a normal period of 180 to 200 reports," said institute president John Galipault. "Analysis of the incidents has shown a preponderance of the errors associated with the events came from controllers issuing incorrect clearances and/or instruction."

Federal Aviation Administrator J. Lynn Helms disputed this assertion: "All the evidence we have gathered indicates convincingly that the system is every bit as safe as it was before the strike." He added that operational errors or near-midair collisions are down 50 percent because of fewer airplanes flying.