Wed, Sep 14, 2005
Subtraction Of Controllers Means Multiplication Of Errors At
Nation’s Busiest TRACON
NATCA's war of
words with the FAA seems to be never-ending... with the following
statement being the latest NATCA charge (of many) against the FAA.
C'mon NATCA... can't we all just get along?
NATCA Statement: 'Operational errors have more
than doubled in the last year at the Southern California Terminal
Radar Approach Control – the nation’s busiest such
facility – at the same time as staffing levels have fallen 12
percent, reflecting yet another key part of the National Airspace
System where Federal Aviation Administration mismanagement is
resulting in a degradation of the margin of safety.
Of the 18 documented errors at Southern California TRACON since
Oct. 1, 2004 – the beginning of the 2005 fiscal year –
11 are classified as “Category A” and “Category
B,” which are the most dangerous instances of planes coming
too close to each other. Those levels are over two and a half times
the number of serious errors recorded in fiscal year 2004.
“The FAA has failed to heed our repeated warnings about
critically low staffing levels at this facility,” said Bob
Marks, Western Pacific regional vice president of the National Air
Traffic Controllers Association. “The result is that they
have put passenger safety at risk. It’s time for the FAA to
realistically acknowledge the dangers of putting increased stress
and strain on already overburdened air traffic
Putting safety at even
greater risk, air traffic continues to increase at the facility. In
calendar year 2004, controllers handled 2.1 million operations and
now they are on track to eclipse that total this year. But the FAA
has cut staffing levels dramatically. In the last 18 months, the
number of certified controllers has fallen from 246 to 217.
That’s well below the 261 controllers the FAA itself says the
facility is authorized to employ based on its high traffic volume.
In the next two years, 48 more controllers will reach retirement
No relief is in sight. The FAA continues to offer no concrete
plan to address the problem. It does not plan to place new hires
into Southern California TRACON for at least another year and has
inexplicably failed to act on approximately 60 requests from
controllers across the country to transfer to the facility since
last March. Meanwhile, the FAA’s practice of scheduling
overtime is now determined by how much money is available as
opposed to how many controllers are needed to staff positions.
“Controllers are increasingly required to work longer at
the radar scopes and are even forced to do the work of two or three
people without assistance,” said Tony Vella, Southern
California TRACON facility representative for NATCA.
“Exceeding two straight hours working airplanes without a
break – the FAA-mandated rule – is now standard. The
FAA has also imposed traffic flow restrictions and reduced service
to the flying public when there are not enough controllers
available to staff positions. Fatigue and falling morale is taking
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