Controllers Union Says FAA Worker Missed Trainee's Ground
One week ago -- in what the National Air Traffic Controllers
Association termed "a brazenly callous move" -- the Federal
Aviation Administration supervisor at the Flying Cloud Airport
(FCM) control tower turned his back on runway operations during an
on-the-job training exercise to take a call on his cell phone...
and missed his trainee mistakenly clear an airport vehicle to cross
the runway in front of a departing aircraft.
The union's announcement is but the latest accusation levied by
controllers against the FAA, since the agency declared an impasse
in contract talks and
imposed a new pay agreement on NATCA-represented
controllers in June 2006 (yes, it's been that
long -- Ed.)
FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory acknowledged the apparent
"operational error," and said the FAA is reviewing the September 22
incident. Cory added the plane in question was stopped on the
runway at the time of the incursion -- an apparent 'stop-and-go'
training exercise, in which the pilot stopped on the runway after
landing to reconfigure the aircraft, prior to taking off again.
Cory added the truck was clear of the runway well before the
single-engine aircraft started its ground roll... adding that the
pilot and truck driver even waved to each other as the truck drove
down a parallel taxiway.
That doesn't matter, NATCA responds. The FAA has a strict ban on
cell phone usage in its operational areas. The supervisor was
training the facility's manager, who was attempting to learn ground
control for the first time.
The union asserts that during the training session, the
supervisor turned his back on the trainee and active ground control
operations to take a phone call. Due to the lack of supervision the
trainee/manager permitted an airport vehicle to cross an active
runway... an clear oversight, and one that could have spelled
"This is another case of FAA supervisors flaunting the agency's
blatant and hypocritical disregard for safety," said Great Lakes
Regional Vice President Bryan Zilonis. "If a controller had
committed this same unsafe act they would be, at the very least,
suspended if not dismissed entirely. NATCA wants to see the same
treatment for these management officials and we're waiting with
bated breath to see what, if anything, the FAA will do. Clearly the
FAA wants its controllers to do as it says and not as it does."
Cory bristled at NATCA's accusation of unfair treatment. "We
treat all our employees fairly," she said.