Controllers Want Criminal Charges In TRACON CO Incident

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Air traffic controllers at the New York terminal radar approach control center (TRACON) are asking for criminal charges to be filed against the FAA after they say they were forced to remain at their consoles despite exhibiting what appeared to be symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. According to WABC, controllers reported being disoriented and sleepy after diesel fumes from a test of the center’s backup generator got into the building’s ventilation system. They claim the center manager ordered them to keep working traffic, even though some said they could barely keep their eyes open. "I remember just being extremely fatigued ... very tired, very sleepy. It took a lot to stay awake that night," controller Ray Maldonado told the TV station. Several controllers went to a nearby hospital after their shift and carbon monoxide was found in their blood. WABC says the FAA is conducting an internal investigation. The FAA did not reply to AVweb’s request for comment on Friday. The controllers also allege that the manager refused to call the fire department to test the air quality and threatened to bar access to firefighters if someone else called them. National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) representative Dean Iacopelli told WABC he believes the manager took the action because a staff shortage left him without anyone he could call to replace the sick controllers and he was unwilling to shut down the facility. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is calling for a full investigation, and the Nassau County district attorney’s office is considering criminal charges. The New York TRACON has been the scene of high-profile squabbles between the union and FAA management over sick time, working conditions and management/employee relations.