Towers, Money, And Controllers

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Although conflict over staffing levels for air traffic control has been simmering for years between the FAA and the controllers union, last week's fatal crash in Lexington, Ky., has upped the rhetoric. The FAA said this week that towers at Duluth, Minn., and Fargo, N.D., were the only towers besides Lexington that have both ground and radar functions that didn't have two controllers on duty Sunday night. In New York, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is demanding that all towers in the state must be fully staffed around the clock. He also wants Congress to allocate $60 million to replace the 42-year-old tower at LaGuardia Airport, which has been plagued by leaks and power problems. "The FAA says we don't need as many controllers because we have updated our equipment, but they haven't updated the equipment, at LaGuardia and at too many other towers," Schumer said. "So the new tower is essential to reducing delays and improving safety on the ground and in the skies." Schumer said only two of 12 towers in New York are fully staffed.