Consolidation Plan Would Pull Weather Experts From ARTCC

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The FAA's intent to reduce costs and better utilize information technology would remove meteorologists from all 20 air route traffic control centers and has prompted weather service workers union president Dan Sobien to tell the Miami Herald, "If we let this happen, people will die." Sobien said a plan to be delivered to Congress on Tuesday would move 84 employees to two central forecasting locations one in Kansas City, and one backup in College Park, Md. That would force controllers dealing with emergencies to consult with weather experts halfway across the country, instead of one sitting right next to them, according to Sobien. Controllers, who have worked side-by-side with weather experts since 1978, agree that the idea may cause unwelcome complications. The consolidation plan would begin with a test phase. If it is both accepted and implemented by the FAA, it could save the agency roughly $4 million, annually, and make the U.S. system more resemble Canada's model.

Proponents of the consolidation note that Canada's similar consolidation model has been used successfully. Opponents note that Canada's air traffic represents less than 10 percent of the traffic operating in U.S. airspace.