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Inadequate Training and Staffing Will Affect Safety of New Routes and Procedures in New York and Philadelphia - (12/19/2007)

CONTACT:     New York: Phil Barbarello, NATCA Eastern Regional Vice President, 516-381-6424; Philadelphia: Don Chapman, 215-479-6936 

WASHINGTON – Air traffic controllers, completely shunned by the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration on the final development and implementation of new headings, routes and procedural changes in the New York and Philadelphia airspace, today are having those new routes and procedures jammed down their throats by FAA management with wholly inadequate training and staffing, leading to mass confusion and new concerns that the FAA is compromising safety. 

“Controllers do not feel prepared to add this new workload to their already overstretched limits. What we have now, courtesy of the FAA, are all the ingredients for an aviation catastrophe and it both saddens and infuriates me,” NATCA President Patrick Forrey said. “The men and women who actually know something about air traffic control in these regions – the controllers – were unceremoniously shoved to the side by the FAA and DOT on this initiative while foolish decisions were made in their absence. Ultimately, however, it is on the backs of these very same overworked, understaffed and fatigued controllers that that the FAA has placed this extra burden.” 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the situation at two key FAA facilities tasked with making these new changes work: 

NEWARK TOWER: Controllers were given a 20-30 minute face-to-face briefing on new “fan” headings for departing aircraft and a facility notice was issued by the facility FAA manager. This is less time than it takes to order and receive a delivered pizza. However, the bigger story, Newark controllers say, is the potential for conflicts between the aircraft on the new headings and the small private aircraft flying near Linden Airport, which is five miles to the southwest, and right in the path of the new headings. The FAA has failed to warn these small aircraft; the Newark FAA manager told controllers no NOTAMS (Notice to Airmen) were issued. 

PHILADELPHIA: What controllers were trained on isn’t what is being implemented today – the FAA changed the procedures and headings – so the training is completely inadequate. Additionally, there is a safety concern because the FAA refuses to publish these new headings on the aviation charts used by pilots. Therefore, the controllers will be saddled with manually overriding the Standard Instrument Departure procedures that the pilots have in the cockpit, creating a high possibility of error. As of late last week, it is controllers’ understanding that US Airways pilots – where Philadelphia is a major hub – had no information on these changes.

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