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Atlanta Radar Facility Nearly Doubles Error Total as Staffing Experience Level Plummets - (7/29/2008)

CONTACTS: Atlanta TRACON Facility Representative Daniel Ellenberger, 678-464-7169; NATCA National Office, Alexandra Caldwell, 202-220-9813, acaldwell@natcadc.org 

ATLANTA – With two months left in the fiscal year Atlanta TRACON, the radar facility for the busiest airport in the world, has close to doubled last fiscal year’s total number of incidents in which planes got closer than FAA rules allow.

The latest example came on July 17th when six operational events took place at approximately 7:20 P.M., one of the busiest times for Atlanta TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control). All six occurred when one Beechcraft, a BE-58, mistakenly flew through the final approach path for aircraft arriving into Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

This incident included four operational errors and two operational deviations – a deviation occurs when an aircraft travels unannounced into another controller’s airspace.

The controller involved has less than five years of air traffic control experience. Of the errors and deviations the closest proximity was between the BE-58 and Delta Airlines 1530 with only 1.04 miles laterally and 500 feet vertically.

So far for FY08 the Atlanta TRACON facility has had a total of 49 operational incidents with 17 errors, 13 deviations, 31 proximity events (re-classified by the FAA from a lower-level operational error in order to give the appearance that errors are decreasing) and one unclassified error. 

Said Atlanta TRACON Facility Representative Daniel Ellenberger: “These errors and deviations are exactly what NATCA has been warning the public about. The FAA continues to hire air traffic controllers with limited to no experience in an attempt to remedy the dire staffing experience. Air traffic controller experience is the flying public’s safety net and without it serious repercussions can occur.”

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