Says Controllers Used Cell Phones To Keep Tabs On Planes
A massive power and communications
failure late Tuesday at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control
Center left scrambling air traffic controllers to deal with a
nightmare scenario -– how to keep dozens of flights away from
each other above a large swath of the Southwestern United States
despite the inability to see them, talk to them or relay crucial
instructions for 15 excruciatingly long minutes.
That's the word from the National Air Traffic Controllers
Association... which adds that all the skill, heart and
determination that controllers bring into the control room every
day was put to the test during one of the worst outages to ever hit
In fact, NATCA says, conditions were so bad at the Los Angeles
ARTCC Tuesday that the only thing controllers had of use to aid the
situation that actually worked was their cell phones –-
devices which the Federal Aviation Administration has barred from
control rooms, incidentally.
"We were completely dead in the water," said Bob Marks, Western
Pacific regional vice president for NATCA. "We lost everything and
could not talk to our airplanes for those 15 minutes. Our
controllers were frantically picking up cell phones and calling air
traffic control facilities around the region, including Bakersfield
Approach, High Desert Terminal Radar Approach Control, Albuquerque
Center and Southern California TRACON, asking them to expand the
range of their radar scopes and let LA Center controllers know if
anyone was in danger of a collision."
As Aero-News reported, delays
mounted by the hundreds for thousands of air travelers... topping
off yet another bad day, NATCA says, in what has become a miserable
More importantly, the controllers union says safety margins were
the casualty of Tuesday’s outage... as controllers' efforts
and ingenuity prevented a catastrophe.
"They used their wits, their guile, and yes, their
management-prohibited cell phones," NATCA President John Carr
The FAA maintains that "safety was never compromised" but Carr
says that wasn't the case Tuesday... and moreover, that travelers
"If radar and radios are not necessary to ensure safety, then
shut 'em off permanently, and let's save a ton on the utility
bill," Carr stated. "If outages are insignificant or
inconsequential, let's get rid of all this burdensome equipment and
revert to the safe haven of manual air traffic control. If the
answer is always going to be ‘safety was never
compromised,’ then don't even bother meeting with the media.
With fraudulent misrepresentations like that, you can just mail
them in every time there's a critical safety-related outage."