Weather Offices at ATC Centers Could Close

 - June 11, 2009, 6:39 AM

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is panning the Commerce Department’s proposal–released on Thursday–to close the National Weather Service center weather service units (CWSU) at each of the 20 air route traffic control centers in the continental U.S. According to Natca, these forecast units provide real-time, face-to-face weather guidance to air traffic controllers and air traffic management supervisors. Instead, the NWS has offered to send the FAA forecasts from two central facilities in College Park, Md., and Kansas City. “This is a foolish plan that puts cost savings ahead of safety,” said Natca president Patrick Forrey. “This plan would directly and negatively affect the margin of safety for the ATC system.” Under the plan approved by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who oversees the NWS, only the “lead forecaster on duty” will be available at each of the two consolidated CWSUs–via text messaging or telephone–to support up to 10 ARTCCs at a time. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is also opposing the consolidation, saying it would affect flight safety at New York City-area airports. If the FAA accepts the proposal from the Commerce Department, there would be a nine-month demonstration and evaluation of the two-center approach to ensure that service or safety isn’t degraded.