Systems Specialists Decry FAA Staffing Plans

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Trainees are being left in charge of critical national airspace equipment without the supervision of certified specialists, the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) said in a news release on Monday. PASS said that managers plan to leave a single trainee on his own at the Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center when one of the three certified specialists is on leave this summer. "The specialist in training is being left alone during high-volume traffic for Federal Express," said Dave Spero, PASS regional vice president. "If something were to go wrong, the individual would have to rely solely on the skills and expertise that he brings to the job rather than specific FAA training. Basically, he's doing the best he can with what he's got." PASS also said all three of the certified specialists in Memphis are eligible for retirement, but the FAA has no plan to address their impending departure. "The FAA is clearly making significant changes in how it chooses to operate," said Spero. "It is completely negligent to choose saving a few bucks by not paying qualified and certified systems specialists overtime over the safety of the flying public. We hope the FAA will rethink this dangerous practice by adequately staffing and training employees at the Memphis facility."