Had Violated FAA Mandates For Staffing Two Controllers
The day after the
Lexington, KY plane disaster last month, high-ranking officials
with the FAA were discussing the air traffic tower chief, labelling
him a "renegade" and debating whether he would be fired for having
scheduled only one controller the morning of the accident.
The Associated Press reported that the FAA's Eastern and Western
terminal services directors discussed the decision by Blue Grass
Airport tower manager Duff Ortman to staff the "mid" [overnight]
shift with only one controller. As ANN reported, the FAA
previously issued a directive that there should be two
controllers on duty at all times, but the order was routinely
ignored by towers around the country.
"Just FYI that despite the mandate ... to have two people work
the separate positions on the mids -- the Lexington manager was
only scheduling one person on the Saturday to Sunday morning mids,"
Eastern director John McCartney wrote to his West and Central
colleagues. "Would have been good for that to be shared with the
Hub manager. No factor in the accident but -- the (air traffic
manager) is accountable for his decision."
McCartney also wrote that he was trying to verify there were "no
other renegades left and not staffing the mids."
A little over an hour later, Western terminal director John
Clancy responded that Ortman "will probably be removed as manager
of the facility," according to the AP report.
"We know there are many cases of understaffing around the
country," said Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic
Controllers' Association, the union that represents rank-and-file
controllers. "It's unfortunate the FAA appears to be more
interested in finger-pointing than coming up with a solution."
Comair Flight 5191 was cleared to take off from runway 22, but
instead departed from the much shorter runway 26 around 6:00 am on
August 27. The CRJ-100 struck trees on take off and crashed, with
the loss of 49 lives. Only the co-pilot, who was the pilot flying,
Much speculation has centered on whether or not having an extra
controller in the tower cab might have averted the disaster. Since
then, the FAA mandate for two controllers on duty has been