Air traffic controllers in Indianapolis have come out against a cost-cutting plan to consolidate on-site meteorologists across the country.
The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed removing on-site meteorologists from 21 flight control centers, including the one at Indianapolis International Airport, 6News' Tanya Spencer reported.
The forecasters would instead operate from just two locations, one in Maryland and one in Missouri, although no jobs would be cut, the agency said.
The FAA called the current system, which has been in place since 1978, antiquated and said that technological advances make face-to-face contact unnecessary.
But members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association in Indianapolis told Spencer that the plan is foolish and reckless.
"We've continued to press upon them that this is a mistake. I definitely feel very strongly this is a mistake," said Thomas Thompson, who's worked in Indianapolis' flight control center for 21 years.
He said he's seen several instances where on-site weather forecasters have helped prevent tragedy.
"If they put that weather person that's in front of me somewhere else and I have to call Maryland or Kansas City to get that information it's going to take much more time," he said. "And the detail that I'm going to get from that person is not going be as much as the individual that has been here many years."
The two-center model would need to pass a nine-month test before it's implemented nationwide.
"The demonstration evaluation must show there is no degradation in services or aviation safety," said Chris Vaccaro of the National Weather Service
Thomas said he is apprehensive about what will happen if it's adopted.
"My worst fear is we don't have a weather person present and some tragic accident results," he said. "That's my worst fear."
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The weather service began a monthlong test in most of Maryland's skies to deliver forecasts remotely.
"The complete version of the taped conversation shows that the pilot of the A-320 jet was doing everything right, which cannot be said about the air traffic controller," the airline's owner said.
The FAA estimates that 7,540 controllers could retire by 2011. That's more than half the current work force.
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