FAA drops ball on Palm Beach Tracon consolidation

January 16, 2008

FAA drops ball on Palm Beach Tracon consolidation

By AOPA ePublishing staff

When the FAA started working to consolidate terminal radar approach control (tracon) facilities in 2007, the agency said it would conduct public meetings for each proposal to gauge pilot opinion and answer questions. Well, the FAA is conducting meetings. But, as AOPA learned earlier this week, the FAA isn’t always prepared to answer pilots’ questions.

During a Jan. 14 meeting in West Palm Beach, Fla., regarding the proposal to consolidate the West Palm Beach Tracon into the Miami facility, the FAA couldn’t give pilots or Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) an explanation of the proposal or the impact it would have on services.

A 2004 study recommended that the West Palm Beach Tracon remain open. When Hastings asked the FAA what had changed since then to prompt this consolidation proposal, the agency couldn’t answer.

“This inability to answer pilots’ questions is unacceptable,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “The purpose of these meetings is to inform the pilot community and solicit input. None of that can take place if the FAA doesn’t do its homework and present the information to pilots.”

The FAA first promised to host public meetings earlier last year when a proposal to consolidate the Palm Springs Tracon into to the Southern California Tracon created an uproar in the aviation community. Since then, the FAA has conducted public meetings about the Beaumont, Texas, Tracon and West Palm Beach Tracon consolidations.

“As we’ve said all along, the FAA can’t operate behind closed doors,” Rudinger said. “These decisions affect pilot services and flight safety. The FAA owes it to the aviation community to come to these meetings prepared to answer questions and explain the proposal.”

AOPA and Hastings have requested another public meeting about the Palm Beach Tracon consolidation so that the FAA can provide needed information.

January 16, 2008