FAA staff reduction at Fairbanks tracon raises concern

February 12, 2009

The FAA’s recent closure of Fairbanks Tracon at night raises safety questions and is being instituted without proper industry input, AOPA said recently in a letter to the FAA’s Alaska regional administrator.

According to the FAA, the Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) picked up the traffic from Fairbanks, which was forced to close at night because of short staffing. Tom George, AOPA’s Alaska regional representative, said in the letter that transferring the traffic to Anchorage ARTCC presents safety issues because Anchorage doesn’t have the ability to monitor the minimum safe altitude warning alerts from Fairbanks, an important safety service the tracon offers to help alert pilots of terrain.

George went on to say the FAA needs more transparency in its decision-making process and should have alerted the pilot community and AOPA to the switch before it took place.

“While we understand controller staffing sometimes dictates imperfect solutions, transferring all traffic to Anchorage may have a safety impact that needs to be addressed further,” George said. “Such an important decision must also be made with broader community input.”

AOPA will continue to work with FAA officials in Alaska to come up with a solution that does not degrade safety.