ATC Operations Largely Unaffected By Blazes
There were some tense moments at the San Diego TRACON Monday, as
flames from two separate wildfires raging to the east of the city
came within 10 miles of the facility.
Despite the threat, operations carried on more-or-less normally,
reports the Southern California Press-Enterprise... and the FAA
took notice. The only weather-related complications involved six
planes forced to divert from landing at Ontario International
Airport, due to strong winds at that facility.
"Considering what's going on with the winds and fire, the impact
to air traffic has really been minimal," said FAA Western Region
spokesman Ian Gregor.
Stephen Merlin, facility representative for the National Air
Traffic Controllers Association, said officials talked of
evacuating the facility.
He also noted the TRACON was short-staffed... with three-to-seven
controllers staffing each of the five regions, where Merlin says
there should have been between 11-14.
As a result, Merlin said, controllers had to space planes
farther apart than usual to give controllers enough room to work
multiple areas. That was still preferable to transferring
operations to the Palmdale TRACON, however, as radar visibility for
the region from that facility is spotty below 8,000 feet.
"If it's slow now, it's less than slow when they take it,"
Merlin said about a switch to Palmdale.
As of Wednesday, air traffic control operations over Southern
California remained largely unaffected by the fires, which spread
north of Los Angeles down south to the US/Mexico border.
Fueled by strong Santa Ana winds -- which only started to ease
Wednesday -- the fires have forced the evacuation of half-a-million
residents of southern California, and caused several billion
dollars in damages.