Representatives Cite Safety Concerns Of Consolidation
congressional representatives and air traffic controllers are
fighting to block the folding of Palm Beach International (PBI)
Airport's approach control into Miami's Terminal Radar Approach
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports on June 14, US
Representative Alcee Hastings proposed an amendment to H.R. 5576
that would "prohibit funds in the bill for consolidation of TRACON
in high threat urban areas." Three other Florida representatives --
Mark Foley, Robert Wexler, and Clay Shaw -- also backed the
H.R. 5576, among other things, appropriates funding for the
Departments of Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban
Development through September 2007.
"It's a first step," Hastings' legislative director told the
Sun-Sentinel, "but a very positive step."
As Aero-News reported in
March, if the consolidation is approved, Miami
controllers would control approaches into PBI and Fort
Lauderdale/Hollywood International (FLL) from a facility in Miami
before handing flights off to local air traffic controllers for
final approach and landing clearances.
"It's a win for the residents of South Florida," said Shane
Ahern, South Florida president of the National Air Traffic
Controllers Association, who opposes the FAA proposal for safety
reasons. "They can't concentrate risk by concentrating facilities
in a hurricane-prone area."
In a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, Hastings said
the consolidation would pose problems to what is already a
high-risk urban area. "If a terrorist attack or natural disaster
were to strike the Miami TRACON, then all three major international
airports would lose their approach radar systems," the congressmen
wrote. TRACON controllers 350 miles away in Jacksonville, he
warned, would have to direct approaching traffic for virtually the
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said consolidations have been
successful in similar areas, and that backup procedures would be in
place. "When we built a facility in an area prone to natural
disasters, we make the facility capable of handling those kinds of
events," she said.
Hastings' House amendment still has to move through the