The following information was released by the office of Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings:
The House of Representatives today approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2007, which includes legislation authored by U.S. Representative Alcee L. Hastings (D-Miramar) blocking the FAA from moving Palm Beach International Airport's (PBI) Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) system to Miami International Airport (MIA). The bill also requires that PBI's new control tower, on which construction is scheduled to begin later this year, include an operating TRACON.
"I've been saying for years that the FAA's TRACON consolidation plan in South Florida runs the grave risk of leaving our air traffic system vulnerable during critical times and setting a dangerous precedent for a process that excludes stakeholders from decisions that impact their lives," said Representative Hastings. "I am not willing to sacrifice safety just to save a few dollars. Eliminating PBI's TRACON is just not safe."
The TRACON system guides planes within a 50 mile radius of the airport on their final approaches. In an effort to save money, the FAA has embarked on an ambitious plan to consolidate dozens of TRACON systems throughout the country. Despite overwhelming opposition from the South Florida and Treasure Coast Congressional Delegations and local officials, the FAA is attempting to consolidate the TRACONs of all South Florida international airports into one at MIA. Representative Hastings has warned that under the FAA's plan, all South Florida airports - domestic and international - will be left without an approach radar system if a natural disaster or terrorist attack were to destroy the TRACON at MIA. The FAA's contingency plan would require that controllers in Jacksonville, an airport more than 350 miles away, direct approaching aircraft not only in their assigned region, but throughout all of South Florida and virtually the entire state without additional staff and technology.
"With Representative Hastings' leadership, we have secured safety and necessary redundancy in our South Florida air traffic control system in the case of a natural disaster or even worse," said Shane Ahern, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association Local at PBI. "The Hastings Amendment will allow for future growth and expansion of air travel in South Florida - which we all know is happening as we speak. Keeping a TRACON at PBI is a huge win for South Florida and the flying public."
Representative Hastings has been leading national efforts for the past four years to block the FAA from consolidating America's TRACONs. The House of Representatives has twice adopted amendments authored by Representative Hastings prohibiting the FAA from moving forward on its consolidation plan. After the House voted to block FAA TRACON consolidation in 2006, Republicans refused to complete the Fiscal Year 2007 appropriations process and the Hastings Amendment did not become law. In June 2007, the House again adopted the Hastings Amendment which now awaits action in the Senate. The FAA Reauthorization Act also now awaits Senate action.