Controller 'Training' Scrutinized

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The FAA says it's "looking into" whether the training of a developmental controller in Florida was accomplished at the expense of three airlines and their passengers aboard four airliners. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association alleged Tuesday that a supervisor ordered on-duty controllers at the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center to re-route a Delta Boeing 757, a Virgin Boeing 747 and two Southwest Boeing 737s to generate more traffic for a trainee undergoing a "skills check." NATCA says the aircraft were diverted by up to 100 miles and into the path of thunderstorms but the FAA says the longest diversion was about 50 miles and not into thunderstorms.

Regardless of the details, the FAA does seem to be putting the incident under a microscope. Spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen confirmed to AVweb that four flights were involved and stressed that flight safety was not affected by whatever happened. The FAA will determine whether experienced controllers were directed to re-route air carrier flights to generate additional traffic for the trainee, who was undergoing a skills check," Bergen said in a statement. "The FAA's has strict training guidelines which do not permit re-routing flights nor inconveniencing pilots or the flying public.