FAA PUSHES BACK RELOCATION OF CENTER; Safety Concerns: Plans To Move The Air-traffic Control Facility From Palm Springs Are Postponed.

Palm Springs

Air traffic controllers will continue to guide distant planes in and out by radar working from a trailer at the Palm Springs International Airport - at least for the time being.

The Federal Aviation Administration had planned to move the airport's Terminal Radar Approach Control services, or TRACON, to a centralized facility near San Diego tomorrow, but officials announced yesterday the agency will delay the consolidation.

The move comes after members of the air traffic controllers union and some state and federal lawmakers questioned the safety of the FAA's plans.

"We decided to delay the consolidation while we talked through some of the congressional delegation's concerns," said agency spokesman Ian Gregor.

"The FAA still believes this move makes absolute sense from both safety and efficiency perspectives," he said.

Gregor said he did not know how long the delay would last.

The FAA has said the relocation to the Southern California TRACON facility in Miramar could save hundreds of thousands of dollars and would have no noticeable effect on pilots or travelers. That facility serves LA/Ontario International Airport, March Air Reserve Base, San Diego International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, among others.

Last month, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., added language to a bill reauthorizing FAA funding that would delay the move pending further study.

Boxer, several other politicians and representatives of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association have said the Miramar center may be dangerously understaffed and moving Palm Springs' services there could increase the burden.

Tony Vella, union president for Southern California TRACON, said he is not against the move, just the way it is being done.

"I think the agency has made the right move to postpone it," he said. "But now it is incumbent upon them to come up with a good plan for the consolidation."

Reach Julia Glick at 760-837-4418 or jglick@PE.com

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