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Elgin Air-Traffic Control Under Investigation

By Margaret Lyons in News on Jun 27, 2008 7:49PM

Remember when you found out through a series of zany sitcom plot twists time and again that telling little white lies will backfire on you? Well, an air-traffic control center in Elgin is learning that lesson the hard way; turns out fudging the truth isn’t so funny when you’re in charge of travel safety.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is investigating the FAA radar facility’s possibly under-reporting its control errors, opting instead to blame pilots for communication and plane-spacing blunders on the runway or, worse yet, ignoring problems altogether. Though the possible transgressions were relatively minor, the transportation department remains concerned with apparent complacency in lowered safety integrity.

Our local control center isn’t the only one feeling the heat: according to Madeline Chulumovich, spokeswoman for the USDT's inspector general, the Department is also auditing other FAA centers nationwide, namely the Dallas – Ft. Worth outlet that's come under fire for “misclassifying blame” after planes were observed flying too close to each other.

Controllers aren't taking the scrutiny sitting down, though. President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, David Stock, is quick to charge the FAA hierarchy with implicitly condoning offenses committed at each of the smaller outlets, saying, "I believe there are people in Washington who ignore incidents until they have their face rubbed in it by the inspector general. If that's not a cover-up, I'm not sure what is." [Trib]—Ana Bolotin