Union Hits FAA Over Chicago Staffing

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Report Says Facility Safe, Adequately Staffed...

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) says the FAA is "stretching the margins of safety" at Chicago-area airports by implementing a controversial report on operations at the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON). Last January, the agency sent in an investigative team in response to a major spike in operational errors at the facility (from seven to 24 in a year). The so-called Tiger Team spent a month reviewing operations and concluded that the TRACON is operating safely and is adequately staffed. What it needs, the report says, is more supervisors, which is "preposterous," according to union officials. "The (people that work there) are just looking at this thing on the bulletin board and shaking their heads," NATCA spokesman Ray Gibbons said in a teleconference attended by AVweb on Monday. Gibbons said the Chicago TRACON is supposed to have 101 controllers but there are only 85 in place and, of those, 19 are trainees. In response to the report, Gibbons said seven working controllers have been promoted to supervisory positions, cutting the pool even more. "We were flabbergasted by this report," said Gibbons. "They continue to squeeze more out of an overburdened, aging workforce."