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Air Force One Disappears from Radar Screen - (3/11/1998)

Ronkonkoma, N.Y. -- Air traffic controllers' complaints about a new radar site used at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center went unheeded by the Federal Aviation Administration until Air Force One was put in possible jeopardy.

Controllers at New York Center say the president's airplane disappeared from the scope at 8:40 a.m. yesterday, for approximately three sweeps -- or 36 seconds -- 30 miles southeast of Kennedy Airport at 19,000 ft. inbound to Bradley Airport in Connecticut.

The FAA acknowledges the aircraft left the radar for a short time. The FAA turned on the new radar site in Gibsborough, N.J., in October 1997, but switched it off after controllers reported phantom targets, disappearing aircraft and the occurrence of a near miss.

"The agency turned the equipment back on approximately three weeks ago without telling anyone and the same problems started coming up," said Chris Boughn, New York Center NATCA president. "Two days ago, management refused to turn the site off so we filed formal complaints."

The agency has since found problems with the site and turned it off. "This is just another example of the archaic management of the air traffic control system," said NATCA's Eastern Region Vice President Joe Fruscella. "

It's a shame it takes something involving the president (Air Force One) before the agency takes corrective action."

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