New York Controllers Get "Retrained"

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Some of the FAA's most experienced and capable air traffic controllers are going back to school. The agency has mounted a massive retraining program for 220 controllers at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) in Westbury to curb a rash of operational errors, some of which might be attributable to controllers being overconfident and taking shortcuts, according to the agency. "We found that there's been a New York way of doing business," Bruce Johnson, the FAA's vice president of terminal services, told Newsday. Johnson also noted that the errors spiked after the agency imposed a new schedule aimed at slashing overtime at the facility. Since July 10, when the new schedule went into effect, there have been 21 operational errors, 15 of them in the high-moderate, or second most serious, category. Before that, the average was about two a month. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said the new schedule results in understaffing, which results in errors. Johnson disagrees. He said the common thread in the recent spate of accidents was lack of awareness or incorrect procedures. Controllers will spend two days in the classroom and a day on a simulator to refresh them on the basics of air traffic control.