FAA Cites "Abuse" and "Waste" at N.Y. Tracon

 - May 16, 2007, 10:59 AM

An FAA investigation of the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (Tracon) determined that it is "more than adequately staffed for safe operations and that local union-controlled scheduling practices are inefficient and wasteful, creating overtime costs that are more than double any other air ATC facility in the country."  The need for overtime was compounded, the report said, "by absences due to widespread abuse of sick leave and workers compensation claims that allowed 21 controllers to earn more than $200,000 last year; this year, that number is projected to increase to 51." According to the report, many controllers logged overtime during weeks in which they also called in sick. Eight days after the FAA last year placed "strict controls" on overtime usage, the report said, the agency began receiving anonymous hotline reports of operational errors. The most serious operational errors were attributable to "performance problems by individual controllers, not staffing levels." The report also uncovered no evidence of controller fatigue in connection with operational errors; instead, the investigation concluded that controllers at the facility worked an average of 3 hours 39 minutes a day, the lowest of any major Tracon. In response to the team's findings and recommendations, the FAA said it will take the following actions: restore management responsibility for scheduling of the facility by canceling former agreements that "gave the union de facto control"; curb the alleged abuses of sick leave, schedule manipulation and workers compensation; and turn over all evidence of inappropriate behavior to the DOT Inspector General.