Tue, Sep 23, 2008
Tower 'At the Center of Refuge From Hurricane Ike'
The latest NATCA rant claims that
air traffic controllers at Lake Charles Tower are not only
suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, but are also bearing
the brunt of a severe staffing shortage. Flight operations into
Lake Charles have tripled due to the high amount of helicopter
traffic in and out of the area - displaced from Southeast Texas and
other areas impacted by Hurricane Ike.
While the facility's normal operating hours are from 6 a.m. to
10 p.m., turning over the airspace to Houston Air Route Traffic
Control Center (ARTCC) during off hours, the tower was forced to
relinquish its airspace early Wednesday due to short staffing.
After one controller was moved off the evening shift to cover a
schedule shortage in the morning, only two controllers and a
supervisor were left to work in the evening. When the supervisor on
the evening shift took leave due to a medical emergency, the tower
had to relinquish the airspace early at 5:45 p.m.
Shortly before the FAA imposed work rules on the nation's
controller workforce in September 2006, the facility was operating
with 14 certified professional controllers (CPCs). Now, the six
controllers left are working six-day weeks and are currently
outnumbered by the facility's seven trainees, none of whom are
close to reaching their full certification. With one CPC currently
eligible to retire and another due to transfer in January, the
facility will be even more short staffed.
NATCA Lake Charles Facility Representative, Oscar Carrizales
said that, "We have enough trouble training the new hires that we
have now, I don't know what we'll do when we get more. Not only are
we set to lose one third of our veteran controller staff, which is
bad enough, but our operations have tripled. Our trainees outnumber
CPCs, and that's a problem."
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