...Uses Occasion To Pitch For More Staffing
NATCA tells ANN that on Friday,
August 4, 2006, Denver International Airport set a new traffic
count record, with 2013 departures and arrivals for the day. This
is reportedly the first time DIA surpassed the 2000 mark -- and
with 'only 15 Controllers and 1 Traffic Management Coordinator
working the entire day and evening shifts.'
The reason for the dramatic increase is twofold, says Mike
Coulter, President of the local chapter of the National Air Traffic
Controllers Association at DIA. "First we have the increase in
flights with Southwest’s expansion being matched by United
and Frontier Airlines. Plus, we no longer have as many Boeing
757’s and Boeing 777’s flying out of Denver. They have
been replaced with much smaller regional jets. It takes a lot more
airplanes to move the same number of people. In the past 12 months
DIA has averaged over 24% more flights in and out per day as
compared to one year ago. We expect this number to only increase as
time goes on."
"What makes this even more special," says Coulter, "is even as
our traffic is increasing in dramatic numbers, we are doing it with
less and less Controllers. When DIA opened in 1995, DIA had 49
Controllers working an average of 1350 departures and arrivals per
day. Now we are working record numbers of aircraft with only 33
Controllers. Of those,
7 are already eligible to retire, with another 9 becoming eligible
by the end of next year."
"It’s been a long time since
we had an operational error," says Coulter. "That is due to the
experience of these Controllers. We have had only one error in the
past four years at DIA out of more than 3 million operations. That
is an amazing record by anyone’s standard. Credit needs to be
given to the fine men and women who keep the skies over
Denver safe every day, under difficult circumstances."
"Yet, we are getting older and the FAA really needs to start
bringing in replacements before it’s too late," says Coulter.
"If the FAA does not start bringing in people soon, we will not be
able to keep this record up. There are only so many airplanes you
can work with this number of Controllers."
According to NATCA, DIA is now landing and departing as many
airplanes as Los Angeles and Dallas, with only Chicago and Atlanta