Union Decries FAA Change In Controller Training

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The FAA wants to change the way air traffic controllers are trained, dividing the job into two specialties for working in either a tower or a radar center. Most controllers currently are trained in both functions. John Wallin, president of the controllers' union local in Memphis, told The Associated Press that cross-training is important for effective coordination when both facilities work together. "Controllers who work in the tower will no longer have the experience that radar controllers have and that could lead to a disaster because they're not going to know what each other is doing," Wallin said. But the FAA says it is simply more efficient to train workers for just one job. "It's simply focusing their training to do precisely what they're going to be doing," FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto told the AP. The union also said the changes would mean a cut in controller salaries and would limit staffing flexibility, especially in emergencies. At the nation's largest airports, the two controller functions already are separate, but Wallin said most of those controllers have already worked at smaller facilities where they got experience in both the tower and the radar center.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), chairman of the House subcommittee on aviation, told the AP that any move by the FAA to lessen certification requirements for controllers would draw a congressional review.