TRACON Plan "Reprehensible" Says Congressman

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The FAA is ignoring the wishes of the House and breaking a promise to four Florida congressmen with a secret plan to speed up consolidation of the Palm Beach terminal radar approach control center into Miami, according to Rep Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.). Hastings says on his Web site it's unbelievable that the agency would pursue its controversial cost-cutting plan in the face of a House vote ten days ago on a bill that would prevent the FAA from spending money from its 2007 budget on consolidating TRACONs. The Senate hasn't considered a parallel bill yet, although that's supposed to happen in July. Hastings, who sponsored the bill, suggested the FAA's decision to press ahead with consolidation may have been "political retribution" -- the agency working to punish those spearheading opposition. The FAA hasn't yet commented on the allegations. Hastings sponsored the bill out of fear that closing the Palm Beach facility would concentrate all of south Florida's air traffic control resources in one facility. He said any number of disasters, including hurricanes and terrorist attacks, could take out the center and leave the screens in the whole region blank. The FAA says it's already thought of that and builds its facilities accordingly. Hastings also alleges that in a meeting between his staff and FAA personnel in April, his staff was promised that no consolidation would take place until 2009 at the earliest. Controllers recently told him they've been ordered to get ready for a move to Miami in 2008.