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Fri, Feb 15, 2008

SoCal TRACON Radio Failure Diverts Flights

Latest Glitch Lasts 15 Minutes

It wasn't the biggest problem to strike the beleaguered Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) but it still left an impression. On Thursday, a radio outage at the facility forced three flights to divert from landing at San Diego's Lindbergh Field.

The communications failure -- which only lasted about 15 minutes, reports The Associated Press -- also delayed 18 departures. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency is investigating what led to the failure.

Two flights inbound to SAN were diverted to Phoenix, and one to Los Angeles, according to airport officials.

As ANN reported, the former Palm Springs TRACON was consolidated into the San Diego facility (SCT), located near Miramar, last July. One day after the switchover, the newly-integrated center suffered its first technical glitch -- the fiber-optic cable connecting the Palm Springs radar to Miramar went down for 90 minutes, forcing a switch in control of aerial operations over the Coachella Valley to Palmdale.

While the technical snags appeared, for the most part, to have been resolved -- at least before Thursday -- controllers at the center slammed the FAA in August 2007, claiming a shortage of qualified staff led to a rash of operational errors, that forced a three-day suspension of training operations at the facility.

That isn't a new argument from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, as the union continues its bitter fight against the agency -- particularly in the court of public opinion -- over the lack of a contract, and as controllers continue to retire from the agency at hire numbers than forecast. Still, the FAA moved quickly to counter NATCA's assertions that SCT wasn't safe, as ANN reported.

You can bet this latest glitch, minor as it may have been, will do nothing to quell that dispute.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.natca.org

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