NATCA Protests FAA Facility Consolidation Plans

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Air traffic controllers in Ohio are protesting a move by the FAA to consolidate operations from several locations in the northern part of the state to a central facility in Cleveland. The consolidation would mean poorer service to pilots, a loss of local knowledge among controllers, and degraded safety and efficiency, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. NATCA has been meeting with local pilots and government officials in the region to encourage opposition to the FAA plans. Under the current setup, controllers are familiar with the area around the airports where they work. That could change if controllers are consolidated, NATCA spokeswoman Alex Caldwell told a local news site. The FAA's proposed plan establishes large controller stations in Columbus and Cleveland, but doesn't provide redundant support in case of a problem at one of the locations, she said. FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory told the Toledo Blade that no final decisions have been made regarding consolidation, but some NATCA members said plans are already in place for controllers to be moved as soon as this summer.

NATCA has created a Web site to protest the FAA's plans to consolidate TRACONs across the country. "Local airport knowledge is CRUCIAL to the continued safe and efficient operation of our local airports," the site reads. "Additionally, the current combined Tower/radar system is cheaper and safer to maintain and operate than a system of large consolidated radars." NATCA asks pilots to write their congressional representatives and send letters to the editor at local newspapers to protest the FAA plan. The issue is not about a loss of jobs, the union said. Job cuts are not included in the FAA plans, only a consolidation of facilities.