Congressman Sanders Vows to Fight Lockheed Martin Contract

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(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders wants to end a government contract that could lead to the loss of 32 jobs at the Burlington International Airport.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) At the Burlington Flight Service Station, a team of 32 specialists advises pilots on weather, terrain, turbulence, flight plans and other issues that could affect safety. The specialists serve general aviation pilots as well as some commercial and military flights.

But the Burlington station could be closed under a 1-point-9 billion dollar contract the government has signed with Lockheed Martin. The company plans to consolidate the 38 government-run operations, into three regional services.

Sanders is concerned that safety will be compromised.

(Sanders) “When passengers get on a plane, when planes take off and land at an airport, people want to know that everything is being done to protect the safety of those flights. And not that operations have simply been turned over to the lowest possible bidder.”

(Dillon) Bob Johnson, an air traffic specialist in Burlington, says local knowledge is key to providing accurate information to pilots.

(Johnson) “We all know up here from working in the Northeast the difference between an Alberta Clipper and a Nor’easter and its effect on aviation. Someone briefing from Prescott, Arizona isn’t going to know that. And they’re eventually going to go down to three facilities in the country and we’re going to lose that local knowledge. And it’s very imperative that we stop that before it happens.

(Dillon) Many of the federal employees have a decade or more of experience. The jobs pay about 70-thousand dollars a year. Lockheed Martin has said it will hire some of the employees if they’re willing to move. But Johnson said the workers would lose their government retirement benefits.

(Johnson) “I’ve got 22 years in and I would lose my entire pension.”

(Host) Sanders hopes to stop the contract through legislation. The bill would prevent Lockheed from shutting down the 38 flight service stations around the country. The legislation currently has 24 co-sponsors.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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