Controllers Want IG Report Corrected

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The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has asked the DOT's inspector general to rescind a recent analysis of contract control towers because of what it terms "critical misstatements" in the description of the facilities. As AVweb reported Monday, Inspector General Ken Mead issued a report saying the 189 FAA-funded towers that are run by private contractors cost substantially less to operate and report fewer errors than 71 so-called "VFR towers" staffed by FAA (and NATCA) controllers. But in a letter to Mead, NATCA President John Carr said the IG goofed when he said the facilities being examined don't have radar to help controllers monitor traffic. In fact, said Carr, at least 58 of the 260 towers examined are classed as "towers with radar" by the FAA. The 58 towers in question have the Digital Bright Radar Indicator Tower Equipment (DBRITE) system, which Mead said in the report is a "monitoring system" that is not a radar system. Carr, a former controller, went to the books and dug up the FAA's own definition and, sure enough, DBRITE is radar. Carr said there are other errors in the report (which he didn't specify) but the radar goof is enough, in his mind, to warrant retraction of the report until the errors can be fixed. NATCA spokesman Doug Church said the image conjured up by the term "VFR towers" is an inaccurate portrayal of the complexities and workloads experienced in those facilities, some of which are among the busiest in the country. "It makes them seem like they're rinky-dink little small rural airports when that's not the case," he said. NATCA continues to lobby Congress to defeat the FAA Reauthorization Bill, which contains language allowing the privatization of 69 of the 71 towers studied by Mead that are still run by the FAA and staffed with NATCA members.