Lost Fiber-Optic Link Leads To Lost Radar Coverage
It didn't take long for problems to arise from this week's
consolidation of the Palm Springs TRACON into a Southern California
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports a fiber-optic cable
connecting the Palm Springs radar to Miramar went down Thursday
afternoon, one day after the facilities were consolidated.
The faulty link wiped out radar coverage for a portion of area
airspace for about 90 minutes, during which time operations over
the Coachella Valley were shifted to Palmdale.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown maintained the glitch did not cause
any lapses in safety, or lead to any problems or delays.
Nevertheless, the problem will likely give critics of the
consolidation new ammunition for their arguments.
As ANN reported, the agency
was set to move controllers operating the PSP Terminal Radar
Approach Control (TRACON) to a consolidated SoCal TRACON facility
near San Diego, but delayed the move earlier this month.
At issue was the safety of such a consolidation, which the FAA
says could save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. The
agency maintained the consolidation would not affect safety, and
would be unnoticeable to pilots or airline passengers... but
opponents of the move said more research needed to be done.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association -- already
doing battle with the FAA over a volatile labor dispute -- argued
the Southern California TRACON in Miramar wasn't staffed well
enough to take on the additional workload. Errors at that facility
have reportedly quadrupled during the past five years, according to
the Desert Sun.
"I'm still not happy with the staffing situation at the SoCal
(radar in Miramar), but there's a light at the end of the tunnel,"
said Ham Ghaffari, regional vice president for the National Air
Traffic Controllers Association.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, expressed concerns last year
about staffing at the facility.
"The Southern California TRACON is the busiest facility of its
kind in the world. It is critical that it be fully staffed to
ensure that the vast airspace over Southern California is safe,"
The FAA said Boxer relented, and agreed to the consolidation,
after the agency agreed to additional training for controllers in
Miramar overseeing Palm Springs airspace, according to the
Stephen Merlin, president of NATCA's chapter at the Socal
TRACON, says the union remains concerned with staffing levels, and
the overall wisdom of the FAA's move.
As for handling Palm Springs, Merlin added, “At this point
I see us slowly working out the bugs."