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FAA probes whether planes rerouted to test trainee

regionalcap

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FAA probes whether planes rerouted to test trainee
October 14, 2008 7:56 PM ET
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All Associated Press news
WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal aviation officials are investigating whether air traffic controllers violated federal rules by rerouting four airliners to test the skills of a controller-trainee.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Tuesday that a preliminary inquiry indicates four flights were rerouted near Savannah, Ga., on Saturday. The government says the passengers were never in danger.

The aircraft were rerouted at the direction of a supervisor at the air traffic control center in Jacksonville, Fla., a controllers union official, Dave Cook, said. Four airliners operated by Delta, Virgin Atlantic and Southwest were detoured into an area between Jacksonville and Savannah, where there were reports of thunderstorms, he said.

The FAA denied there were thunderstorms in the region.

Cook, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative for the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, said the rerouting increased the risk to the passengers and crews.

"In my 20 years as an air traffic controller we had never done anything like what they just did," Cook said.

Cook said the four planes — a Delta Boeing 757, a Virgin Boeing 747 and two Southwest Boeing 737s — were traveling south en route to Orlando International Airport near Wilmington, N.C., when they were rerouted inland on orders from an air traffic control supervisor who wanted to test the skills of a trainee.

The planes were directed at least 60-70 miles out of their way into an area of airspace known as the "Alma sector," where there were storms Saturday, Cook said.

The pilots would have had to "zigzag" to avoid the storms, adding more extra miles to their trip, Cook said.

The FAA said the flights were directed only 33-50 miles out of the way.

Besides rerouting the flights, the supervisor also ordered a veteran controller to leave the four flights "stacked" at varying altitudes above 30,000 feet rather than bringing them all down to 30,000 feet and stringing them out in a line, as would be the normal practice before reaching the Alma sector, Cook said. The supervisor told controllers he wanted to leave the planes stacked so the trainee could practice unstacking them.

The supervisor also ordered a veteran controller to tell one of the four pilots to report an incorrect altitude to see whether the trainee would catch the mistake, Cook said.

The FAA said it "has strict training guidelines which do not permit rerouting flights nor inconveniencing pilots or the flying public."

The FAA and the controllers union are at loggerheads over staffing of traffic control facilities. Union officials say many facilities are understaffed or manned by trainees without adequate experience. FAA officials say the union exaggerates in order to gain leverage in contract negotiations.

Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton declined to comment on the incident. Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said the airline wasn't aware of the incident. Virgin spokeswoman Emily Andariese said she was unaware of the incident.
 

ReverseSensing

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Union officials say many facilities are understaffed or manned by trainees without adequate experience. FAA officials say the union exaggerates in order to gain leverage in contract negotiations.

It's not hard to tell that there are more trainees at the consoles and/or positions are short-staffed: more voices in the background telling the controller what to say; more late descents; more impossible instructions (descend quickly and slow), more being "forgotten," etc.
 

Amish RakeFight

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The supervisor also ordered a veteran controller to tell one of the four pilots to report an incorrect altitude to see whether the trainee would catch the mistake, Cook said.

Did one of these pilots actually comply with this asinine request? I certainly wouldn't purposely readback the wrong altitudebecause ATC said so. Talk about a can of worms to get caught up in.
 

tomgoodman

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Worth a try

So in the event of an altitude bust, tell the controller: "Very good. You have passed this no-notice alertness check." :cool:
 

Bluejob

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Cook, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative for the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, said the rerouting increased the risk to the passengers and crews.

"In my 20 years as an air traffic controller we had never done anything like what they just did," Cook said.


Hey David, come to JFK and take a look. It won't be another 20 years for you.
 

JoeMerchant

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....and tell me again why some of you want MORE government? TSA, FAA, IRS.....hey I got an idea....let's let them take care of our health care and retirement too.....:rolleyes:
 

Tripower455

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Thank Marion B. and by extension, the Bush administration for this dumbing down of ATC....

They fired or forced many experienced controllers to quit so they could "save" a few bucks and show those overpaid, underworked prima donnas that they could be easily replaced...

They could've fired half of the tsA and not affected "security" one whit, but they chose to seriously change one of the most safety sensitive programs in the country, where EXPERIENCE makes a huge difference in safety (not to mention efficiency), and make it seem like they fired a bunch of secretaries with tenure.

It's gonna get far worse before it gets better.......
 

JoeMerchant

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Ummm.... who started the TSA?

Bush.

I'm against more govt. and bigger govt.....Bush isn't a champion in that department.....The point still stands....Why do we want even MORE TSA/FAA/IRS type involvement in our life.....

Bush was pandering to the nanny crowd with the TSA...The argument was that we needed a Federal Agency to take over airline security....How has that worked?
 

ReverseSensing

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Bush was pandering to the nanny crowd with the TSA...The argument was that we needed a Federal Agency to take over airline security....How has that worked?

Wrong. Bush was pandering to the crowd that sees a terrorist behind every rock and tree. You know, like John McCain.

Modern day Republicans no more resemble conservatives than McCain or Palin resemble mavericks.
 
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