FAA, NATCA Not On Same Frequency Over Wx Radios

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It turns out that NATCA and the FAA agree on something "commercial" radios aren't allowed to be kept by controllers working in the tower. It's a simple rule intended to eliminate distractions from a controller's work environment, but one that was perhaps complicated by a tornado last Christmas that flipped some 50 Cessnas at Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach campus while controllers in the nearby Daytona Beach International Airport tower claim they sat blissfully unaware. In recognition of that precise set of circumstances, two emergency weather alert radios were placed in the tower on Dec. 27. A few days later, re-recognition of the rule apparently led to the radios' recent removal. And so the earth will not go spinning off its axis -- NATCA and the FAA are again at odds. AVweb was unable to confirm reports in local papers that suggest installation of those radios came with the blessing of regional FAA managers -- it seems local FAA spokespeople are "out of the office" until Wednesday and calls have been directed to FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

According to FAA headquarters spokeswoman Tammy Jones, "The policy is that they're not supposed to have those types of electronics that would present some kind of distraction." When asked what sort of equipment controllers had at their disposal to identify weather, Jones said, "I'm not exactly sure which ones that particular tower has. I'd have to find out what they have, but they have weather equipment." In late December, FAA Southern region spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen told AVweb that controllers do have weather overlays on their radar screens, but both NATCA and the FAA say this provides only precipitation, not tornado, information. TVs and radios of any kind are allowed and available to controllers in a break room, but controllers believe they should have access to simple sources of emergency weather information while working at their post.