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FAA weighs cutting 100 weather experts

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U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D−N.Y.) said the Federal Aviation Administration is considering transferring out of New York more than 100 weather specialists, a move he said could worsen air traffic congestion and compromise safety.

Schumer asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to order the FAA to scrap the plan.

“We need all hands on deck to make sure things run safely and smoothly at New York City airports,” Schumer said.

“Our air space and airports are the most complex and congested in the world and to move the local experts away is simply penny wise and pound foolish. The bottom line is the FAA’s consolidation plan could compromise air travel safety and reduce the efficiency of air travel in New York City and we simply cannot allow that to happen.”

The FAA plan is part of a nationwide consolidation plan that would dramatically reduce staffing in New York, moving “the very people with unique knowledge of the New York system needed to react to changing weather conditions and implement delay reduction technology and safety initiatives to new areas, according to Schumer.

Each one of the FAA’s 21 regional air route traffic control centers nationwide, including the two that cover the New York City area, has a weather forecast unit that provides weather guidance to air traffic controllers and their supervisors.

Schumer said the consolidation would be the latest of several administrative actions to reduce personnel in FAA regional offices.

New York City’s three area airports − Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark − are among the busiest in the nation.

“Last year, the FAA consolidated the Air Traffic Organization’s financial accounting service at regional offices,” Schumer said. “This led to the relocation of more than 100 employees from the Eastern Region Office to Atlanta. The continued consolidation fits a pattern suggesting plans to consolidate the FAA’s nine regional offices into three offices, which would then be expected to serve all 50 states.”

Schumer has long been critical of FAA leadership, calling for modernization of an air controller system he says is outdated.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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