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Wed, Oct 06, 2004

Controllers Take Issue With FAA Report

Report on spike in errors allegedly does not address staffing shortages

Air traffic controllers are criticizing an FAA report pointing out a spike in errors involving aircraft separation issues in airspace over the Chicago area.

In January, the FAA sent a safety assessment team to the Chicago TRACON facility in Elgin (IL), after controllers working the O'Hare and Midway airports had committed 24 errors in 2003 that resulted in minimum separation rules. The previous year saw only four such erros, and 2001 only eight. So far in 2004, seven have been reported.

The FAA report states that staffing was "deemed adequate" at the facility and that the problems are due to lack of management and "inefficient allocation of controller resources."

"They suggested we increase the number of supervisors and traffic management coordinators, but they don't sit in front of the scopes," said Ray Gibbons, president of the local chapter of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, in comments made to the Associated Press.

James D. Fossey, FAA Director of Safety Services, stated in the report that "operational supervisor staffing was found to be somewhat inadequate."

According to FAA spokesperson Tony Molinary, there are 89 controllers at the TRACON facility, out of the authorized 101 slots. Mr. Molinaro says the agency stands behind the report.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.natca.org

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