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One Month Later, FAA Still Cannot Explain Decision to Needlessly Delay and Reroute JFK Arrivals for 48 Minutes, Jeopardizing Safety, Costing Airlines Money in Fuel and Disrupted Operations - (11/6/2007)

CONTACT:     Phil Barbarello, NATCA Eastern Regional VP, 516-381-6424; Dean Iacopelli, New York TRACON NATCA Facility Representative, 516-356-3983

WESTBURY, N.Y. – Dissatisfied at enduring a month of inaction and inattentiveness by Federal Aviation Administration investigators, air traffic controllers at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control today are speaking out about an October 6 incident in which an FAA management official at the facility ignored key information and continued with a decision to hold all arrivals into delay-plagued JFK Airport for 48 minutes. The decision unnecessarily inconvenienced thousands of passengers, forced the rerouting of dozens of aircraft and, controllers say, is indicative of the types of things happening behind the scenes to worsen conditions for air travelers.

Aircraft headed into JFK were held by New York TRACON’s system operations manager starting at 8:16 a.m. EDT, because the instrument landing system (ILS) for Runway 22-Left was being repaired. Controllers advised the manager that the ILS for another runway, 31-Right, was available for arrivals. Both the wind conditions and the visual conditions (“Runway Visual Range,” or RVR) made 31-Right a realistic and efficient alternative and, in the words of New York TRACON NATCA Facility Representative Dean Iacopelli, “certainly more efficient than holding for nearly an hour waiting for the ILS for 22-Left to return to service.” 

For reasons unknown to NATCA, the system operations manager ignored the recommendations.  

“It is completely unacceptable for an incident of this magnitude to take a month to investigate,” said NATCA Eastern Regional Vice President Phil Barbarello. “NATCA’s own internal investigation, which was completed within days of the incident, makes it obvious that this was much more than just a poor decision by an FAA manager. Dozens of aircraft were rerouted and/or forced to land at alternate airports for no reason.  Hundreds if not thousands of passengers were significantly delayed and inconvenienced for no reason. Pilots on some flights were forced to divert because they didn’t have enough fuel to hold in the air for an indefinite period of time, putting air travelers in harm’s way for no reason.” 

Continued Barbarello: “It is unconscionable to let a month’s time pass without getting to the bottom of this. While the FAA is sitting on its hands, this very same situation could repeat itself.”  

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