Controllers Warn Of Crowded Summer Skies

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With the Memorial Day weekend coming up, the summer travel season kicks into high gear. While GA pilots have plenty of options and often can avoid the more congested airports and airspace, air traffic controllers are warning of a worsening staffing shortage across the country, and increasing fatigue as fewer controllers work longer shifts. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says many facilities will have a greater proportion of trainees and fewer experienced workers. "The FAA is considering canceling vacation time for controllers to deal with short-staffing," NATCA said in a news release on Tuesday, "which will deprive controllers of the breaks they so desperately need away from this grueling job." Efforts by the FAA to redesign the airspace in the New York region are "smoke and mirrors," Phil Barbarello, NATCA's vice president for the eastern region, said in a news conference on Wednesday. Pilots are confused by new unpublished procedures, he said, and "operations are less safe."

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told AVweb on Wednesday that the agency believes "the full implementation of the airspace redesign will result in a reduction of delays." At our deadline she was not able to confirm or dispute the NATCA statements regarding vacation cancellations.

The FAA has been working to redesign the airspace above New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, a project that is scheduled to take five years.