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Rash of Errors at Understaffed New York Center Forces FAA to Suspend Training to Review Operation - (8/20/2007)

CONTACT:     Julio Henriques, NATCA facility representative at New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, 631-786-3838 


RONKONKOMA, N.Y. – Four operational errors have occurred in one week at the same sector at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center and other errors spread out among other sectors has prompted local Federal Aviation Administration management officials to suspend training of new controllers for 30 days to assess the facility's training and staffing situation.
 

Local FAA management has also mandated a third air traffic controller monitor the sector where the recent rash of errors has occurred, which is normally worked by only two controllers. Two of the four recent errors occurred while training new controllers. The decision to have a third controller monitor any position is praised by controllers. However, the facility does not have enough controllers to staff this new position. 

“We have fewer controllers working longer time on position. That has led to them becoming more fatigued and losing their focus and has reduced our margin for error to a bare minimum," said NATCA New York Center Facility Representative Julio Henriques. "Controllers are being pushed to their breaking point." 

Henriques said all of the facility's airspace has training that goes on constantly. There are 66 trainees on board, with many more to come. "We have lost 44 controllers to retirement, promotions to management positions, and transfers just this fiscal year alone (which began on Oct. 1, 2006) and there are at least a dozen more expected losses in the next few months." 

"We are down to 251 fully certified controllers, well short of the 370 required by the FAA prior to the new work rules it imposed last September," Henriques said. "The controllers are the only thing holding the FAA's failed system together and yet the FAA continues to wear them down." 


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