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Sun, Apr 24, 2005

Understaffing Blamed For Tampa Radio Outage

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

What happens when there aren't enough airport technicians working? Understaffing caused a power outage and communications blackout last Saturday at Tampa International Airport, according to the union representing the airport technicians, Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS).

Two blown fuses initially led to a backup generator powering up successfully. In a news release, the union alleges that the generator ran unnoticed for almost nine days before it ran out of gas. It maintains that there were not enough staff to make regular trips to the facility that houses the generator. It said the problem would have been detected earlier and repaired if staffing had been at the appropriate levels.

"This is a huge concern for us. This high-level facility is understaffed and stretched to capacity. Had management scheduled proper coverage of environmental and communications technicians, then surely they would have been able to tend to the facility that houses the generator before it ran out of fuel," said Dave Spero, PASS Region II vice president, in a news release.

"With the understaffing issue at Tampa, our technicians simply cannot be expected to keep pace with the numerous tasks, upgrades and operations expected when there are not enough of them," said Spero.

The FAA denied that staffing is too low in Tampa. "Staffing at Tampa is adequate to meet the mission for technical services there," said FAA official Kathleen Bergen to the Tampa Tribune.

"We were very fortunate that the effects of this outage were minimal, but the FAA cannot wait until there is a major incident before properly staffing the facilities in a manner which allows us to maintain them properly," said Spero.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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