In yesterday's editions of The Washington Post, it was incorrectly reported that Dutch air traffic controllers might have been boycotting flights to and from the United States.In fact, they have continued to handle those flights normally.
Foreign air controllers backed away from threats to launch further boycotts of flights to and from the United States yesterday as President Reagan repeated earlier statements that U.S. controllers who were "coerced or harassed" into striking can regain their jobs.
About 130 of 11,045 controllers being fired have formally requested special consideration, according to the Transportation Department. Three have been allowed back to work, and examination of other cases continues.
Since the government began the dismissal procedure, Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis has said that controllers who stayed away from work because of extraordinary circumstances, including coercion, could seek reinstatement.
Robert Poli, president of the striking Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, said union ranks remain firm. "We're not going to kneel, and we're not going to crawl back," he said. He continued to express optimism that the government will be forced to reopen talks.
The executive board of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations, meeting yesterday in Amsterdam, decided against calling for worldwide action against U.S. aviation by member groups. In response, Portuguese controllers, who control much of the eastern Atlantic, canceled a boycott set for midnight Saturday.
That eliminated, at least temporarily, the threat of another serious disruption of transatlantic flights such as that caused for two days earlier this week when Canadian controllers refused to handle U.S. traffic. The Canadians alleged that U.S. airspace is not safe under emergency control measures implemented after U.S. controllers struck 12 days ago.
In Amsterdam, federation president Harry Henschler was quoted as saying the question of international action concerning U.S. aviation might be brought up again Aug. 22 when delegates of the federation's 61 member bodies meet in Amsterdam. Henscher also sent a telegram to Reagan urging that talks be reopened with PATCO.
It remained unclear yesterday whether controllers in Spain and the Netherlands were continuing boycotts of U.S. flights.
Transatlantic traffic had returned almost to normal volume as airlines cleared passenger backlogs in the wake of the Canadian boycott.
Lengthy delays still plagued some international flights. Domestic flights by airlines using major airports were holding steady at about 75 percent of scheduled levels, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Speaking to reporters at his California ranch yesterday, Reagan ruled out a presidential amnesty or pardon for controllers. But he did note that some controllers were successfully contesting dismissal notices that supervisors began mailing last week to controllers who failed to appear for work after Reagan's Wednesday deadline.
The notice sent to controllers gave them seven days to submit explanations for their absence or other reasons why they should not be dismissed. The 130 who have contested dismissal have cited strike-related pressures and personal reasons such as stays in the hospital.
Some labor analysts have suggested that if the strikers admit defeat, the administration would be lenient in letting substantial numbers return to work. This would ease pressure to train new controllers and speed restoration of air traffic to pre-strike levels.
However, at a breakfast meeting with reporters yesterday, presidential adviser Martin Anderson stressed that the government would not allow return of controllers who had picketed and actively supported the strike but then said they had changed their minds.
The FAA has begun training new controllers in Oklahoma City, and about 1,000 military controllers are expected to be on the job in civilian control facilities by this weekend. Supervisors and non-striking controllers are filling the rest of the emergency system's seats.
The government maintains that the system is safe.
FAA spokesman Jerry Lavey said that in the first 10 days after the strike, five potential midair collisions were reported and are being investigated but have not been confirmed. Lavey said figures given reporters earlier by the FAA showing nine such incidents in the strike's first five days were incorrect.
In a comparable nine-day period in August last year, Lavey said, 16 such incidents were recorded and subsequently confirmed.
Potential midair collisions are defined as incidents in which collision is avoided because one or both planes takes "evasive action," according to an FAA spokesman. Although their description may sound terrifying to the average passenger, such incidents occur routinely and are not considered particularly dangerous by pilots.
The striking controllers and their counterparts in Canada have said that the crews now on duty often do not know how to operate their equipment and have committed dangerous and unacceptable errors in keeping aircraft out of each other's paths.
The Canadian controllers agreed to resume work after 12 fact-finding teams were set up with the government to investigate alleged safety violations on crossborder flights.
Meanwhile, PATCO attorneys continued to fight fines and the threat of decertification as a union. They are to submit final briefs here this morning to an administrative law judge rebutting government arguments that the union launched an illegal strike and should be decertified.
Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Harold H. Greene reduced to $750,000 a $4.75 million fine levied against PATCO for violating an antistrike injunction obtained by the federal government on the day the strike began. Fines levied against Poli personally were cut from $6,000 to $2,000.
Greene ruled that since the federal government had declared the strike over two days after it began, the union could not be fined for illegal strike activities after that date.
Shortly after the strike began, the Justice Department also filed for injunctions at more than 60 other U.S. district courts against the PATCO locals in those areas, according to PATCO general counsel Richard Leighton.
The union has been found in contempt of many of the local injunctions, and fines have been levied. However, Leighton said that, although PATCO funds had been frozen, to his knowledge no judge in these proceedings has ordered the fines collected. PATCO hopes that these cases will be consolidated and that fine reductions ordered by Greene will be applied everywhere.
At a U.S. district court in New York City, a PATCO spokesman said, the union continued to give depositions in connection with separate attempts by the Air Transport Association of America to collect more than $4.5 million from the union for violating a 1970 injunction against such strikes. The ATA has said airline industry revenue dropped $20 million to $30 million per day in the first days of the strike.
Police in Indianapolis reported that a striking controller, James Kolb, 33, apparently committed suicide yesterday by breathing car exhaust fumes. Kolb was found dead in his home with his car running in the garage, police said.