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Understaffed Kansas City International Tower Results in Delays for Air Travelers - (5/11/2007)

CONTACT:     Kevin Peterson, NATCA Kansas City Intl. Airport Facility Rep., 816-294-5519; Howard Blankenship, NATCA Central Regional V.P., 913-390-9146 

, Mo.
– Air traffic controllers at the control tower and terminal radar approach control room (TRACON) at Kansas City International Airport (MCI), are working so short that Federal Aviation Administration management is curtailing services.  Just yesterday, May 10, in order to maintain safety, all aircraft flying into Kansas City were delayed by the Kansas City Air Route Traffic Control Center in Olathe, Kan. 

Yesterday’s action involved a technique commonly referred to as “S” turns and the forced reduction of aircraft speeds. This was necessary because there were not enough controllers on duty to open the positions necessary to handle the volume of aircraft. 

Currently, the tower is staffed with 28 fully qualified controllers. That is almost 20 percent below the minimum amount of controllers the FAA says they currently want. And this current minimum is 40 percent below what the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association agreed was necessary as recent as 2005. Prior to last September, FAA management would not allow staffing to go below 11 controllers on a shift. Now it is normal for only 7-8 controllers to be working. 

Yet traffic at Kansas City is growing.  Several existing airlines have added more routes and airlines have begun new service into Kansas City. New traffic records were set on three separate days in April. 

“I don’t know what we are going to do later this summer when four experienced controllers retire,’” said Kevin Peterson, NATCA’s facility representative at MCI. “We are already stretched over the limit.” 

Management’s failure to properly staff the facility has caused them to curtail services in order to maintain the high level of safety that controllers provide.

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