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Monroe Airspace Given to Fort Worth Air Traffic Facility Due to Critically Low Controller Staffing Levels - (5/22/2008)

CONTACT:      Monroe Tower Facility Representative Vinny Giannola (318) 366-1268, golf_alpha@yahoo.com; Southwestern Regional Vice President Darrell Meachum (817) 797-6083; NATCA National, Alexandra Caldwell, 202-220-9813, acaldwell@natcadc.org

MONROE, La. – Controller staffing levels are so low at Monroe Tower that, due to a recent illness and family emergency, Monroe airspace had to be transferred to the Fort Worth Air Route Traffic Control Center for an additional three and a half hours than it normally would be relinquished (changing to 9:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. from the normal time span of 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.) The facility was also put on ATC Alert indefinitely by an FAA manager – indicating that Fort Worth Center could assume the Monroe airspace at any given time due to staffing.

To compensate for short-staffing air traffic controllers at Monroe tower have been forced to work six-day work weeks and, for the most part, 10-hour days. Dedicated professionals, these controllers are tired, overburdened and are calling on the FAA to send in reinforcements.

The FAA’s staffing range for Monroe Tower, which focuses on staffing to budget rather than staffing to operational needs, is for 12 to 14 certified professional controllers (CPCs) and trainees; however, there are only eight CPCs and three trainees when a minimum of 14 CPCs is needed to adequately staff the facility. Prior to September 3, 2006, the FAA authorized Monroe Tower to have a total of 18 CPCs.

Forth Worth Center would be challenged to provide safe, efficient service in Monroe airspace if forced to take it during more complex operations, such as less than perfect weather or during busier daytime operations. Fort Worth controllers aren’t nearly as familiar with the local area and operations, have only partial radar coverage, use higher separation-standards leading to less efficiency in terminal airspace and wouldn’t be able to provide extra services, such as safety advisories. Also, prolonged transfer of Monroe airspace would have a negative impact on Fort Worth staffing, a facility with its own share of short-staffing problems.

Said Monroe Tower Facility Representative Vinny Giannola: “The FAA imposed work rules on air traffic controllers on September 3, 2006, which has fueled the staffing shortage and hampered the Agency’s ability to attract qualified applicants to replace the veteran controllers that have left. There’s a disincentive for existing controllers to transfer into Monroe and in unprecedented numbers, controller applicants are turning down positions with the FAA.

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