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Thu, Oct 25, 2007

Leaking Roofs, And Leather Couches

NATCA Attacks FAA Over Luxury Items At Facilities

Two months after a high-profile Congressional hearing exposed widespread health and safety problems at Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control facilities across the country -- and in the midst of crippling and unsafe communications outages -- the FAA responded not by improving its maintenance practices but instead by going on an end-of-fiscal year spending spree to outfit scores of facilities with new and expensive furniture, televisions and other high-end items.

That's the assertion made by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association... a group always eager to take the FAA to the woodshed on nearly any matter, given the union's bitter struggle with the agency over a new contract. The union backs up its latest claims with a list of improvements made to several facilites -- including the mold-infested Atlanta Center -- that have little, if nothing, to do with keeping the nation's skies moving.

For example, NATCA claims, the FAA recently added over $5,000 worth of new furniture to the tower Asheville Regional Airport (AVL). The agency added a $2,500 58" plasma TV -- replacing an overhead powerpoint projector -- to the conference room in the Charlotte-Douglas (CLT) tower, as well as an estimated $24,000 in furnishings for new management offices.

It could certainly be argued some of the improvements NATCA calls "frivolous, unneeded luxury items" do benefit controllers, such as a new flat screen TV for the break room in the tower at Yeager Airport (CRW) in Charleston, WV. The FAA also added new furnishings, including new refridgerators and flat-screen TVs, to break rooms at a number of towers and centers.

The benefits of other 'improvements', however -- such as an LED message board to display "motivational messages" in the hallway of the tower at Fayetteville Regional (FAY) -- are a bit more dubious. Ditto the replacement of two air conditioning systems at FAY... which NATCA notes "were five-years-old and were working perfectly."

"This is the kind of reckless fiscal behavior that demands both federal and Congressional investigations but sadly has become an annual ritual of a bloated government bureaucracy, supposedly looking out for the safety of the flying public, instead feeding its gluttony at the taxpayer trough," NATCA President Patrick Forrey said.

NATCA notes the FAA recently added new leather furniture to the conference rooms at Atlanta Center, as well as an 'extensive' amount of sod and new furniture for manager offices.

As ANN reported, ZTL is under siege by an outbreak of scopulariopsis mold growth under the facility's elevated floor, and in the duct work of the facility... a situation NATCA says was caused by a leaky roof.

The union also notes Fort Worth Center (ZFW) suffers from a leaking roof... a problem not rectified by a redecorated lobby, including an original oil painting (shown at center) valued at more than $1,300. Those improvements come as plastic tarps hang over electronic equipment to shield it from water leaking in (below).

"This FAA cannot properly maintain its equipment, install new equipment on time or on budget without creative re-baselining techniques and routinely has claimed it is running its operations 'more like a business,'" Forrey said. "Well, now we know exactly what that means: Keep your local furniture and electronics merchants’ businesses flourishing!"

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

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