CHICAGO, Aug. 4, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Technicians represented by the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS) are expressing concern today that the furloughing of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Engineering Services employees working at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center may have widespread consequences on aviation operations. FAA employees, along with outside contractors, were in the middle of replacing the air handlers in the data/communications unit when the furlough went into effect. As a result, these employees had to stop work, leaving this important project unfinished and one of the main handlers responsible for cooling the Voice Switching Communication System (VSCS), which must be kept at a certain temperature, nonfunctional. This vital communications system allows air traffic controllers to communicate with pilots and other air traffic controllers.
"The employees responsible for changing the handlers in the Chicago Center were furloughed in the middle of the project," said Luke Drake, PASS regional vice president. With one unit out of service, if another fails, the temperature inside the room could rise and cause a failure of the system, forcing it into backup mode, which has diminished capacity and relies on the same cooling system. "If this system goes down and the temperature is hot enough, the backup could fail as well," said Drake. "If that happens, the entire Chicago airspace could be without communications." The Chicago Center provides air traffic services to the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas and numerous underlying approach control facilities.
"This situation diminishes the margin of safety for critical air traffic control systems by leaving important components offline," added Drake. "This is another example of why Congress needs to return to D.C. and pass an FAA extension immediately in order to get the furloughed employees back to work who ensure the safe and efficient operation of the aviation system."
PASS represents more than 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment, inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries, develop flight procedures and perform quality analyses of the aviation systems. For more information, visit the PASS website at www.passnational.org.