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FAA Dangerously Violating Procedures for Planes Approaching Newark Airport - (8/24/2005)

CONTACT: Russ Halleran, 609-841-8775

NEWARK, N.J. – Air traffic controllers are calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to renounce a dangerous procedure to squeeze through more traffic at Newark Tower and the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control facility. The unregulated procedure which permits simultaneous Instrument Landing System (ILS) approaches to intersecting runways at Newark Liberty International Airport is against the agency’s own rules. Despite several written complaints from air traffic controllers over several months, the FAA has failed to take action to end the unsafe practices at the nation’s 16th busiest airport.

“The FAA is trying to increase air traffic at the expense of safety, and we’re telling them that enough is enough,” said Russ Halleran, Newark Tower controller and facility representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “Air traffic controllers are used to challenging conditions and we welcome the opportunity to safely work more air traffic, but the FAA’s recent actions are putting the safety of the flying public at risk. We will not just sit back and allow the continued use of these procedures – for which there are no regulations in the agency’s own operation manuals.”

The procedure violates the prescribed conditions in FAA written guidelines that regulate when and how simultaneous ILS approaches are to be utilized. Controllers are concerned the agency is forcing them to break federal regulations and jeopardize safety. Currently, the FAA permits simultaneous ILS approaches to intersecting Runways 11 and 4 Right/22 Left, without giving controllers the proper regulations to allow the use of a piece of equipment known as a Converging Runway Display Aid (CRDA) that helps determine which planes will land on which runway at a particular time. Other FAA controlled airports are using CRDA to sequence these simultaneous ILS approaches to intersecting runways. The problem in New York is that CRDA was not accepted by New York TRACON due to airspace and procedural issues.

Yet Halleran said he can find no FAA regulations to support the legitimate use of the simultaneous ILS approach procedure. There are no written procedures between Newark Tower and the New York TRACON.

“Safety has to come first and this is an unsafe procedure. There is a reason that controllers’ responsibility is defined by the FAA as the, quote, ‘safe, orderly and expeditious’ movement of traffic,” NATCA Eastern Regional Vice President Phil Barbarello said. “Expeditious doesn’t come first, except here in New York, apparently. That’s wrong. There is precedent for the FAA terminating this procedure where it was unsafe; the agency did it in Philadelphia. We want the agency to end it at Newark as well. The result will be a safer operation not only for that airport but for the New York TRACON as well, which has had its share of safety concerns mostly caused by understaffing.”

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