Air Traffic Controllers Asking For Lifting Of Radio Ban

Wednesday, May 2nd 2007, 9:15 pm
By: News On 6

A storm is brewing over air traffic controllers and safety during severe weather. To limit distractions, the FAA bans the use of AM/FM radios in tower work areas, but News On 6 anchor Craig Day reports many controllers worry that when severe weather rumbles in, they're not getting needed information. When a storm passed directly over Tulsa International last week, air traffic controllers wondered what was happening.

"This one kind of struck home because it was an occasion when it was right on the airport," said National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative Scott Keller.

Keller says they didn't have a lot of info on the storm because the FAA has a ban on AM/FM radios in control towers. The FAA banned radios eight months ago from tower work areas to prevent them from becoming a distraction.

"I believe it was an opportunity to kind of take a jab at controllers and not realizing the significance of how we can use those reports and stuff like that," said Keller.

The FAA says the air traffic controllers have access to weather technology and information while they're in the towers, but those controllers say that information isn't as specific as it needs to be.

Keller says it doesn't give information about hail or rotation that local meteorologists can provide.

"The information is available, why not pass it along," said Keller.

Senator Jim Inhofe wants the FAA to drop the ban. He says having a radio in control towers ensures emergency broadcasts are heard by air traffic controllers.

"Being a pilot for the number of years, he's been a pilot, 40 years plus, and being an instructor and commercially rated, I think the Senator has a very good grasp of what weather can do to an aircraft and how the aid of this weather radio in an air traffic controller's tower could really be a benefit," said Inhofe aide Danny Finnerty.

Since the September ban, the Air Traffic Controllers Association says there have been at least a half-dozen near misses with tornadoes, including the ones in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Watch the video: Air Traffic Controllers Worry About Safety After Radio Ban

Related stories:

5/2/2007 Senator Wants Radios Back In FAA Towers

5/1/2007 - FAA And Air Traffic Controllers At Odds Over Radio Use