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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/16/2009

Hearing Today on Controversial Flight Safety Plan

Proposal would consolidate aviation weather forecasters

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The House Science Subcommittee on Investigations & Oversight is holding an 11 a.m. hearing today (hearing info and webcast) to discuss plans to move National Weather Service forecasters out of the nation's 20 regional air traffic control centers and consolidate operations in two central facilities. The proposal, put forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Weather Service, has come under fire from some who say it could jeopardize air safety by making forecasters harder to reach in emergency situations.

Currently, meteorologists serving as part of "Center Weather Service Units" are on hand at the air traffic facilities to provide weather forecasting support. The air traffic facilities in question typically handle air traffic at high altitudes flowing between airports, and are distinct from the support units located at many airport control towers.

Keep reading for more on the FAA's proposal...

The plan would move the small teams of forecasters to a facility in College Park, Md., and one in Kansas City. As this blog and the Federal Eye have reported, the plan is opposed by the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO), which believes that it could endanger public safety. "This plan will not save money and it's certainly not about saving lives," said NWSEO president Dan Sobien in a press release. "If you were experiencing a weather-related flight emergency, who would you want helping you -- a trained meteorologist with knowledge of local weather working in the same room as the air traffic controller or remote technology from a meteorologist in Kansas City who is monitoring events from [the] Virgin Islands to the Pacific Ocean?"

The FAA maintains that safety would not be compromised, and that the plan could save money by centralizing operations, although officials have stated that no jobs would be cut. The plan calls for a demonstration project to take place first to make sure that air safety would not be affected.

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 07/16/2009

Categories:  Government, Government

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