- Published: July 18, 2013
Buffalo, NY - The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), AFL-CIO, the union representing FAA systems specialists, today said that the FAA is consciously ignoring safety requirements and allowing open (un-staffed) watches on the essential radar equipment that covers air traffic for Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The systems specialists are responsible for responding to any problems in the systems used to provide real-time air traffic control capabilities for the Buffalo airport. The unit is normally supposed to have a systems specialist on duty 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
Local union representatives have made FAA managers aware of their deep concerns over the open watches, which have been occurring since the beginning of the year, but the FAA has ignored the warnings. "I personally informed the local manager in advance of my worries regarding open watches. It is unconscionable that FAA management would deliberately risk safety by not meeting their own coverage requirements," said Bill Klinefelter, PASS representative.
Teresa Hudson, the service area manager responsible for these services in the eastern third of the country, was notified in writing of this problem months ago and has allowed the open watches to continue. "I personally discussed this with Ms. Hudson over a month ago and she agreed that it was wrong," said Ron Medeiros, PASS regional vice president. "Yet, the problem has not been fixed. I don’t understand how someone in her position can risk the lives of the flying public like this."
Furthermore, when asked about the coverage requirements, neither local nor higher-level FAA management officials were even able to identify the minimum safe staffing requirements for the facility. "It is very disturbing that FAA management does not immediately know the coverage requirements for the unit," said John Anderson, PASS regional assistant. "At best, it’s laziness on the part of FAA management; at worst, it’s gross negligence," he said regarding the FAA’s failure to schedule the required coverage. "Imagine if your loved ones were in airspace controlled by Buffalo in poor weather when a critical air traffic control system could not be immediately restored because FAA management didn’t do their job."
"In light of the recent events in Lexington, Ky., highlighting the FAA’s problems with inadequate staffing, one would think the FAA would be adamant about fulfilling coverage requirements," said Medeiros. "This is one of the most blatant examples of the FAA’s failure to meet restoration and safety requirements. The flying public deserves to know that they are protected when they fly, and the FAA in Buffalo is denying them this assurance."
PASS represents more than 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment, inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries, develop flight procedures and perform quality analyses of the aviation systems. For more information, visit the PASS website at www.passnational.org.