After weeks of haggling, congressional pressure and general angst from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the radar at Palm Springs International Airport was moved to the San Diego area Wednesday. “It was a smooth and safe transfer,” said Jim Corey, president of the local NATCA branch. The radar itself was not moved, according to KESQ-3. “It’s a fiber optics move. The radar is beamed to San Diego,” Corey said. The agency was set to move controllers operating the PSP Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) to a consolidated TRACON facility near San Diego, but delayed the move earlier this month.
At issue was the safety of such a consolidation, which the FAA says could save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. The agency maintained the consolidation would not affect safety, and would be unnoticeable to pilots or airline passengers… but opponents of the move said more research needed to be done.
NATCA, which is currently battling the FAA in a labor dispute, argued the Southern California TRACON in Miramar wasn’t staffed well enough to take on the additional workload. Errors at that facility have reportedly quadrupled during the past five years, according to the Desert Sun.
“I’m still not happy with the staffing situation at the SoCal (radar in Miramar), but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ham Ghaffari, regional vice president for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, expressed concerns last year about staffing at the facility.
“The Southern California TRACON is the busiest facility of its kind in the world. It is critical that it be fully staffed to ensure that the vast airspace over Southern California is safe,” she said.
Senator Boxer attached a rider to the Senate Commerce Committee’s draft FAA Reauthorization Bill in May to delay consolidation of the Palm Springs TRACON into the Southern California TRACON facility. Then, House Representatives Ted Poe, R-TX, and Bob Filner D-CA, introduced a bipartisan measure to place a moratorium on the consolidation of all air traffic control facilities.
“We’ve been able to provide the same or better service in the consolidated facilities,” said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown.
In addition to PSP, the FAA also plans to relocate TRACONs in West Palm Beach, FL; Lincoln, NE; Reno, NV; and Boise, ID.
“It’s kind of like cough syrup that you have to take, but it doesn’t taste good,” Ghaffari said. “I’m not ecstatic about it, but we will make the consolidation as safe as possible under the constraints.”