FAA Threatens to Send Forecasters Out of State

Some North Texas air traffic controllers, who are frustrated with an FAA plan to take away the weather forecasters who work with them, are taking their concerns to the public. 

"It's a bad idea. It's a bad way to try to cut corners," said Russ Miller, a controller at Fort Worth Center, and a representative of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

The Federal Aviation Administration wants to streamline the aviation weather forecasting system by consolidating forecasters in two cities. That means 20 major air traffic control facilities, including the Fort Worth Center, which handles much of the traffic in the Southern U.S., would lose their on-site meteorologists. 

Under the new plan, controllers in Fort Worth would have to call a forecaster out of state for advice on re-routing planes around storms and other weather problems.  The controllers fear that system could lead to dangers and longer delays for passengers, potentially leaving them circling longer in bad weather.
"Any time you reduce the reliability and accuracy of what we're doing it has the potential to lead to safety issues," Miller said.

The FAA insists the new system will be more efficient and just as safe. 

"The consolidation of weather services to two centers would provide more consistent weather information for the national system," said Elizabeth Cory, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Cory said the agency will try the new plan for a nine-month trial period, and the National Transportation Safety Board will observe during that time to ensure that it is safe.

The controllers hope the nine-month trial will convince the agency to kill the plan. 

"It just seems nutty to me," Miller said. "Surely it won't survive a closer review."

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