Palm Springs TRACON Move Ignites Debate

The FAA seems intent on closing the Palm Springs, Calif., terminal radar approach control (TRACON) in three weeks despite unusually strong public and political opposition. It intends to transfer the workload to the Southern California TRACON near San Diego on June 6. In recent weeks, local, state and federal politicians have asked the FAA to reconsider, citing safety concerns, and there’s even a bill pending in the House that would outlaw the move.According to the Desert Sun, a public meeting on Thursday, in which opposition was virtually unanimous, apparently failed to move FAA officials, who insist service will improve. “If you stand back from the emotional for just a second and you look at the facts of what level of service is going to be provided, it’s going to be a vast improvement,” Walter White, SoCal TRACON’s support manager for airspace and procedures, said at the meeting. But opponents say closing Palm Springs will add a specialized workload to the San Diego facility that it’s not staffed or trained to handle. SoCal TRACON is one of the busiest, handling more than two million flights a year. Palm Springs sees about 145,000 flights per year. Critics say SoCal is already stretched to the limit by manpower shortages to the point where operational errors are up threefold. They also say the controllers in San Diego aren’t familiar with the geography and conditions around Palm Springs. Those points have been made repeatedly by pilots; airport business officials; and civic, state and federal politicians, but the plan remains to make the move June 6. “I have the feeling, sitting here this afternoon, that you’re here to tell us something and you’re not paying any attention to what we’re saying,” Mort Gubin, a senior aviation medical examiner, said at the meeting.

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