Union Calendar 43
100th Congress, 1st Session --------- House Report No. 100-55
' ■' i.1987
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL
AT CHICAGO'S O'HARE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT:
■ : !0
BY THffi a "
COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT
April 15, 1987.— Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1987
COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS
JACK BROOKS, Texas, Chairman
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
CARDISS COLLINS, Illinois
GLENN ENGLISH, Oklahoma
HENRY A. WAXMAN, California
TED WEISS, New York
MIKE SYNAR, Oklahoma
STEPHEN L. NEAL, North Carolina
DOUG BARNARD, Jr., Georgia
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
TOM LANTOS, California
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
MAJOR R. OWENS, New York
EDOLPHUS TOWNS, New York
JOHN M. SPRATT, Jr., South Carolina
JOE KOLTER, Pennsylvania
BEN ERDREICH, Alabama
GERALD D. KLECZKA, Wisconsin
ALBERT G BUSTAMANTE, Texas
MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California
THOMAS C. SAWYER, Ohio
DAVID E. SKAGGS, Colorado
LOUISE M. SLAUGHTER, New York
BILL GRANT, Florida
FRANK HORTON, New York
ROBERT S. WALKER, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM F. CLINGER, Jr., Pennsylvania
AL McCANDLESS, California
LARRY E. CRAIG, Idaho
HOWARD C. NIELSON, Utah
JOSEPH J. DioGUARDI, New York
JIM LIGHTFOOT, Iowa
BEAU BOULTER, Texas
DONALD E. "BUZ" LUKENS, Ohio
AMORY HOUGHTON, Jr., New York
J. DENNIS HASTERT, Illinois
JON L. KYL, Arizona
ERNEST L. KONNYU, California
JAMES M. INHOFE, Oklahoma
William M. Jones, General Counsel
Stephen M. Daniels, Minority Staff Director and Counsel
Government Activities and Transportation Subcommittee
CARDISS COLLINS, Illinois, Chairwoman
MAJOR R. OWENS, New York
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
JOE KOLTER, Pennsylvania
GERALD D. KLECZKA, Wisconsin
THOMAS C. SAWYER, Ohio
JACK BROOKS, Texas
HOWARD C. NIELSON, Utah
J. DENNIS HASTERT, Illinois
DONALD E. "BUZ" LUKENS, Ohio
FRANK HORTON, New York
John Galloway, Staff Director
Cecelia Morton, Clerk
Ken Salaets, Minority Professional Staff
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
House of Representatives,
Washington, DC, April 15, 1987.
Hon. Jim Wright,
Speaker of the House of Representatives,
Dear Mr. Speaker: By direction of the Committee on Govern-
ment Operations, I submit herewith the committee's fourth report
to the 100th Congress. The committee's report is based on a study
made by its Government Activities and Transportation Subcommit-
Jack Brooks, Chairman.
I. Introduction 1
II. National Transportation Safety Board investigation 2
A. Staffing levels 3
B. Supervisor selection process 4
C. Controller recertification and training 4
D. Failure to follow noise abatement procedures 5
E. Flow control problems 6
III. Federal Aviation Administration response 7
IV. Discussion 8
A. TheFAA 8
B. TheNTSB 10
V. Findings 13
VI. Recommendations 13
Appendix 1. — Synopsis of ORD errors 1985 17
Appendix 2. — Synopsis of ORD errors 1986 19
Additional views of Hon. J. Dennis Hastert 21
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Union Calendar No. 43
100th Congress ,
1st Session HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
IMPROVING THE SAFETY OF AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL AT
CHICAGO'S O'HARE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: FAA
April 15, 1987. — Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of
the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Brooks, from the Committee on Government Operations,
submitted the following
BASED ON A STUDY BY THE GOVERNMENT ACTIVITIES AND
On April 7, 1987, the Committee on Government Operations ap-
proved and adopted a report entitled 'Improving the Safety of Air
Traffic Control at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport: FAA
Oversight." The chairman was directed to transmit a copy to the
Speaker of the House.
This report of the Government Operations Committee on air traf-
fic controller errors at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport fol-
lows an investigation and February 27, 1987 hearing conducted by
its Subcommittee on Government Activities and Transportation
under the direction of subcommittee Chairwoman, Cardiss Collins.
The subcommittee investigation followed a dramatic increase in
reported controller errors and near collisions between commercial
aircraft both on the ground and in the air above O'Hare.
The report is based on testimony from air traffic controllers, the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Transporta-
tion Safety Board (NTSB), the General Accounting Office (GAO), a
former commercial airline pilot/transportation reporter and the
subcommittee's independent findings.
II. National Transportation Safety Board Investigation
There has been an alarming and unacceptably high level of re-
ported FAA air traffic controller operational errors at Chicago's
O'Hare International Airport. 1
In 1986, there were 23 operational errors at O'Hare, a 65-percent
increase over the 14 reported errors the previous year. 2 That in-
crease occurred, moreover, in the face of a 13-percent decline in
such errors nationwide. 3 By contrast, there were eight operational
errors at Atlanta International Airport and seven at each Dallas/
Fort Worth and Los Angeles International Airports in 1986. 4 That
amounts to approximately three times more errors at O'Hare than
at those two other airports. Thus far in 1987 there have been three
operational errors reported at O'Hare, the most recent having oc-
curred February 10. 5
As disturbing as those numbers are, moreover, it is apparent
that not all controller errors at O'Hare are being reported. For ex-
ample, an FAA prepared list and description of recent operational
errors at O'Hare does not include a March 13, 1985 operational
error that lead to the death of a pilot whose small commercial air-
craft was blown over and crushed by the engine blasts of a 747. 6
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has also in-
vestigated four recent controller errors at O'Hare involving com-
mercial aircraft. The circumstances surrounding each of those inci-
dents, as determined by the NTSB, are as follows: 7
February 25, 1986.— On that date a United Airlines DC-8 travel-
ling at 80 mph down a runway at O'Hare prior to takeoff narrowly
avoided crashing into a 50-seat Air Wisconsin F-27 on final ap-
proach for landing on an intersecting runway. The DC-8 captain
saw the approaching Air Wisconsin aircraft and held his plane on
the ground until the other aircraft crossed his departure path. The
Air Wisconsin plane overflew the DC-8 near the intersection of the
two runways, passing less than 150 feet above the DC-8. The DC-8
captain reported that had he lifted off normally, the two planes
would have collided.
May 17, 1986.— Less than three months later, on May 17, 1986, a
similar controller error resulted in a near-collision between two
jets during takeoffs on intersecting runways. That near catastrophe
1 An operational error is the term used to describe an air traffic controller error that results
in two aircraft coming within less than the minimum permitted distance.
2 FAA, "Synopsis of ORD [O'Hare International Airport] Errors 1985," and "Synopsis of ORD
Errors 1986" reprinted as Appendixes 1 and 2.
3 Testimony of Joseph T. Nail, Member National Transportation Safety Board before the Sub-
committee on Government Activities and Transportation Subcommittee of the Committee on
Government Operations, House of Representatives, 100th Congress, 1st Session (February 27,
1987), "Near Misses and Air Traffic Control Issues in Chicago," p. 4. Hereinafter referred to as
4 Hearing testimony of Joseph T. Nail, Member National Transportation Board, p. 1. Hearing.
The number of operations at Atlanta, is comparable to O'Hare. Dallas/Fort Worth and Los An-
geles each handle approximately 75 percent of the traffic at O'Hare.
5 Nail testimony, p. 2.
6 "Synopsis of ORD Errors 1985," Appendix 1.
7 The summaries of the four errors are based on Nail testimony, NTSB Safety Recommenda-
tions A-86-44 through -46 (May 27, 1986) and NTSB Safety Recommendations, A-87-3 through
-7 (February 6, 1987).
involved a U.S. Air DC-9 with 116 passengers and crew and an
American Airlines 727 with 109 passengers and crew. The first offi-
cer of the DC-9, who was piloting the aircraft, reported that he ob-
served the American Airlines plane taking off on an intersecting
runway and that the two planes were on a collision course. The
pilot lifted his plane off the ground at a slower than normal air-
speed and banked slightly to the right to avoid a collision as his
plane flew directly over the top of the American Airlines plane, in-
flicting minor wind damage to the plane below.
June 29, 1986.— This incident involved an Air Wisconsin F-27
and a United 727. The Air Wisconsin flight had departed from
O'Hare on a northeast course. Within minutes, the United 727 was
cleared for takeoff with a different heading. When the Air Wiscon-
sin flight was one mile northeast of the airport it was directed by a
controller to turn right, which placed it on the same course as the
trailing United plane. The United jet then began to overtake the
slower turbo prop plane until the error was detected by an auto-
matic conflict alarm system.
July 2, 1986. — This operational error resulted after two passenger
jets had been cleared by different controllers to depart O'Hare on
separate runways early in the morning. The error occurred because
the two controllers did not coordinate with each other. One control-
ler cleared a United 737 to fly a noise abatement heading after
takeoff while another controller cleared a Western Airlines 727 for
takeoff with an immediate left turn, under a normal non-noise
abatement departure procedure. As a consequence, the two jets
came within only 2,600 feet of each other horizontally and 400 feet
vertically, two miles west of the airport.
Following the June 29 and July 2, 1986 controller errors, and
with reported controller operational errors at O'Hare running at
the rate of one every 13 days, 8 the NTSB initiated an investigation.
The results of that inquiry and a series of recommendations were
issued by the NTSB February 6, 1987. 9
The NTSB investigation found serious fault with air traffic con-
troller qualifications and staffing levels, supervision, flow control,
controller requalification after being involved in an error, and
quality assurance and training at O'Hare.
A. STAFFING LEVELS
In reviewing staffing levels, the NTSB determined that O'Hare
was short of senior, full performance level controllers (FPLs). That
created what subcommittee Chairwoman Collins has called a
Too few controllers means that less experienced control-
lers cannot be given the time to upgrade their skills, while
the full performance level controllers are forced to work
excessive periods under overly stressful conditions. That,
in turn, discourages controllers from transferring to Chica-
go. Additionally, supervisors are forced to fill in as control-
lers in neglecting their supervisory duties. 10
8 Nail testimony, p. 4.
9 NTSB Safety Recommendations (February 6, 1987.)
10 Hearing, p. 3 A.
According to the NTSB in its February 1987 report:
The low number of FPL controllers at O'Hare required
the facility to make several adjustments in order to meet
their [sic] operational shift coverage. One of these adjust-
ments required both facility staff specialists and staff offi-
cers to work operational positions for a substantial amount
of time. For example, during June 1986, staff specialists
and staff officers spent 37.9 percent and 17.7 percent of
their time, respectively, working on operational positions.
Also, on-the-job training (OJT) had been curtailed to pro-
vide adequate position coverage, particularly during the
summer and other prime time vacation periods. Finally,
these staffing problems required many controllers to work
at their positions for excessive time periods before receiv-
ing a relief break. * l ,
B. SUPERVISOR SELECTION PROCESS
During its investigation of the June 29 and July 2 controller
errors, the NTSB learned that the same control tower cab supervi-
sor was on duty when both incidents occurred and that he failed to
recognize either operational error as it was developing. The cab su-
pervisor was a newly appointed tower supervisor who had been cer-
tified for tower work only two weeks previously. According to the
NTSB, the supervisor's "previous experience was as a controller at
the Chicago Air Route Traffic Center and more recently, for 8
years, he was a controller at the O'Hare terminal radar control fa-
cility . . . He had had no previous FAA tower cab experience. " [Em-
phasis added.] 12
As further stated by the NTSB:
[T]he supervisor should have been more effective in
monitoring the overall safety of operations during the time
that both operational errors occurred. His performance
probably was attributable to his limited experience in the
tower cab. The Safety Board is concerned that this individ-
ual was selected as a tower cab supervisor at the nation's
busiest airport without any prior tower cab experience. [Em-
phasis added.] 13
C. CONTROLLER RECERTIFICATION AND TRAINING
Again, during the course of its investigation of the June 29 and
July 2, 1986 incidents, the NTSB determined that the controller
who was involved in the June 29 error was also involved in the
May 17, 1986 operational error. Appropriately after the May 17
operational error the controller was removed from operational duty
and given 6V2 hours of over-the-shoulder training by his immediate
supervisor over a 10-day period during heavy and very heavy traf-
fic. The controller was subsequently tested and recertified for
return to operational duty on May 27, 1986.
1 * NTSB, Safety Recommendations (February 6, 1987), p. 4.
12 Ibid., p. 5.
13 Ibid., p. 6.
In less than a month after his return to duty, however, the same
controller figured prominently in the June 29 operational error.
Yet, inexplicably after that second error the controller received
only lVfe hours of additional training by a nonsupervisor before
being returned to duty. According to the NTSB: "The controller
was not counseled about the incident by any of the facility's quality
assurance and training staff, and iiis immediate supervisor was not
involved in any part of his recertification, ,, contrary to FAA regu-
In reviewing the training records of the two controllers involved
in the July 2 incident that resulted from confusion over noise
abatement procedures, the NTSB determined that both controllers
were returned to operational duty within a few hours after brief,
informal performance reviews.
In discussing the June 29 and July 2 operational errors the
NTSB expressed concern that:
[T]he immediate supervisor of each controller did not
participate in the recertification process; the facility's
quality assurance and training staff did not participate in
any of the recertifications; FPL controllers conducted over-
the-shoulder evaluations instead of appropriate superviso-
ry personnel. . . .
In one case, the area manager conducted the recertifica-
tion actions; in another case, the controller received only
1 V2 hours of training after his second operational error in
a month, while in another case both controllers were re-
certified only a few hours after the operational errors oc-
D. FAILURE TO FOLLOW NOISE ABATEMENT PROCEDURES
As previously mentioned, the July 2, 1986 controller error was
caused when one controller directed an aircraft to follow airport
noise abatement procedures while another controller ignored that
requirement in directing a second aircraft on a potential collision
course while an inexperienced supervisor was oblivious to what
Pursuant to an agreement reached with the City of Chicago, the
FAA requires the use of noise abatement procedures from 10:00
p.m. to 7:00 a.m. unless suspended by a supervisor due to heavy
traffic or safety considerations. Basically, FAA procedures require
the use of certain arrival and departure runways and specific head-
ings to be used upon takeoff. Although traffic was light, the mid-
night supervisor, who was working the north and south control
tower positions combined, had stopped using noise abatement pro-
cedures before being relieved at 6:38 a.m. One day shift controller
proceeded to work the north position and the other worked the
south position. The error occurred shortly after they assumed their
positions. One day shift relief controller directed a United plane on
a noise abatement heading while the second controller ordered the
Ibid., p. 8.
Ibid., p. 9.
Western Airlines flight on a non-noise abatement heading, which
intersected the United course.
The confusion was a direct consequence of the FAA's practice of
suspending noise abatement procedures at various times each
morning prior to the prescribed 7:00 a.m. cut off time.
That was not the only incident that involved the FAA's violation
of Chicago noise abatement procedures. In March 1985, similar neg-
ligence contributed to the death of the pilot and sole occupant of a
small commercial aircraft that was turned over and crushed while
taxiing behind the engine blasts of a 747.
In that case, a 747 was permitted by the O'Hare control tower to
"run-up" its engines as part of a mechanical test in a special test
area. That run-up pad was close to a taxiway that was supposed to
be closed to other aircraft during such tests. A controller, however,
directed the air taxi to proceed to a hanger by way of the supposed-
ly "closed" runway. The smaller aircraft came within 85 feet of the
rear of the 747 and was flipped over by the engine blasts, crushing
the cabin and killed the pilot. Subsequent inquiry revealed that the
747 was facing in a southwesterly direction during the test, al-
though the Airport Noise Directive required the plane to be facing
the opposite direction, to the northeast. Had the larger plane been
headed in the correct direction the accident would not have oc-
curred, despite the controller having assigned the small craft to the
In spite of an order from the O'Hare Air Traffic Control manag-
er directing the positioning of aircraft during engine "runups",
subsequent inquiry revealed that supervisory control tower person-
nel had a "hands-off policy [towards] directing aircraft on run-up
pads to face in any particular direction . . ." 16
E. FLOW CONTROL PROBLEMS
During its investigation of the June 29 and July 2 operational
errors, NTSB investigators "became concerned about heavy air
traffic demands at O'Hare with regard to controller performance
and workload." 17
The FAA has two systems designed to prevent unsafe levels of
traffic at major airports. Under the FAA's Performance Measure-
ment System, standards have been developed for major airports, in-
cluding O'Hare, to set an airport's hourly capacity (acceptance
rate) of traffic. That measure is determined on the basis of certain
statistical data, including runway configurations, number of air-
craft handled and traffic mix. The resulting acceptance rate varies
according to wind and weather conditions. A random check by
NTSB investigations determined that the applicable capacity stand-
ards were "never significantly exceeded" at O'Hare. 18 Neverthe-
less, the NTSB determined that "the capabilities of typical air traf-
fic controllers to safely handle various traffic flow complexities are
not directly considered [by the FAA] during the development of
these standards." x 9
16 NTSB, Factual Report Aviation Accident, March 13, 1985 (July 30, 1986), p. 2b.
17 NTSB Safety Recommendations (February 6, 1987), p. 6.
18 Ibid., p. 7.
Additionally, O'Hare Airport has been designated a high density
traffic airport by the FAA. That has resulted in the FAA's estab-
lishment of a High Density Rule that limits the maximum number
of hourly takeoffs and landings that may be reserved for certain
categories of users. In 1973, the High Density Rule for O'Hare was
originally set at a maximum of 135 operations per hour. Following
a formal action by United Airlines in 1981 to rescind the High
Density Rule, the following year the FAA "increased the quota to
155 operations per hour at O'Hare based upon 'airport and air traf-
fic system changes since the rule was first promulgated,' rather
than rescind the High Density Rule." 20
In concluding its investigation of the June 29 and July 2, 1986
controller errors at O'Hare and its determination as to the under-
lying causes of those near disasters, the NTSB recommended that:
(1) The FAA implement an improved and more effective
air traffic controller training program at O'Hare to bring
additional development controllers to a full performance
level rating in a timely manner.
(2) The FAA review its personnel selection and promo-
tion programs at O'Hare to assure that prospective tower
supervisors have prior tower experience before becoming
(3) The FAA review the methodology used to establish
the Engineered Performance Standards and High Density
Rule at O'Hare "to ensure that air traffic controller staff-
ing levels and performance limitations are accounted for
appropriately and that air traffic controllers team capabili-
ties are not exceeded during peak traffic periods."
(4) The FAA review its Quality Assurance and Training
Program at O'Hare.
(5) The FAA make certain that air traffic controllers at
O'Hare, who have been involved in an operational error,
"are counseled, trained and recertified" as required by
FAA regulations. 21
III. Federal Aviation Administration Response
Under law the FAA must respond to NTSB safety recommenda-
tions within 90 days in stating what actions (if any) it plans to take
in response to each recommendation. In the case of the NTSB Feb-
ruary 6 report on O'Hare air traffic control, the FAA response is
due no later than May 7, 1987.
Within less than a week after the release of the highly critical
NTSB report, Paul K. Bohr, the then Regional Director of the FAA
Great Lakes Region, which includes Chicago, issued his own four-
page rebuttal. 22 In reviewing staffing, Mr. Bohr maintained that
the FAA had already "taken significant actions to increase the
number of personnel" at O'Hare. According to Mr. Bohr, since No-
vember 1, 1986, the FAA has approved the transfer of an additional
21 Ibid., pp. 10-11.
22 Statement of Paul K. Bohr, Regional Director, Great Lakes Region, FAA (February 12,
1987). Hereinafter cited a Bohr statement.
13 controllers to O'Hare, all of whom were scheduled to begin work
within the next three months, according to Mr. Bohr. Additionally,
the FAA was said to have revitalized a recruiting and screening
process "unique" to O'Hare where controllers are brought to the
facility for a try out without jeopardizing their position at their old
Of the five NTSB recommendations, the potentially most far
reaching was that the FAA assure that "air traffic controller team
capabilities are not exceeded during peak traffic periods". That
suggests the possible need to reduce airport "rush hour traffic" for
The FAA Regional Director's rejection of that proposal was brief
and to the point. There was no need to even consider the possible
need to reduce peak traffic because:
Daily traffic loads are controlled by traffic management
process. These processes include consideration for airport
conditions, runway configurations, controller availability,
weather, and many other factors which require day-to-day
and sometimes hour-to-hour decision making. 24
Additionally, in minimizing the NTSB findings, Mr. Bohr argued
that the FAA at O'Hare had already taken steps "to improve the
Quality Assurance and Training Programs." According to Bohr,
those actions included:
[Management and supervisory emphasis on quality as-
surance and training.
[A planned increase in] permanent staffing in the qual-
ity assurance and training function from 2 to 10. 25
A. THE FAA
The NTSB February 1987 findings on safety deficiencies regard-
ing O'Hare Airport traffic control deeply concern the Committee.
What emerged from that study is not a pattern of individual con-
troller error per se, but a pattern of poor coordination and commu-
nication between controllers and a seemingly lax attitude concern-
ing required or common sense operating procedures. That in turn
suggests poor management and faulty system controls. Of particu-
lar importance are the NTSB's criticisms regarding management's
failure to recertify controllers involved in operational errors in ac-
cordance with FAA regulations and its failure to remedy previous-
ly noted deficiencies, particularly with regard to quality assurance
In May 1985, for example, a Management and Operational Effec-
tiveness Evaluation was conducted at O'Hare by the quality assur-
ance staff from FAA Washington headquarters. The resulting
report identified numerous problems, including systemic deficien-
23 Ibid., pp. 1-2. Given the demands of working at O'Hare, only controllers who have previous-
ly attained a full performance level rating at another facility are currently considered for trans-
fer to O'Hare.
24 Bohr statement, p. 4.
25 Ibid., pp. 2-3.
cies regarding nonstandard coordination between controllers, use of
improper air traffic control phraseology, incomplete position relief
briefings and transfer of position responsibility. Additionally, con-
trollers did not always obtain acknowledgment from a pilot that
another aircraft was in sight prior to instructing the pilot to main-
tain visual separation. Regarding quality assurance, the inspection
report noted flatly: "The facility has not implemented a quality as-
surance program as required" by FAA regulations. 26
A year later in the spring of 1986, an Operational Error Preven-
tion Evaluation was conducted by the FAA Great Lakes Regional
Office. The evaluation found that many of the previous year's prob-
lems at O'Hare persisted. In addition, the evaluation noted that
crew briefings on previous operational errors were conducted as
late as four to six months after the error occurred, training folders
were as much as six months out of date and did not include the
cause of previous operational errors nor document the remedial
training given controllers who committed such errors. Further, the
report found that controllers received poor on-the-job training on
proper coordination between controllers. 27
An internal O'Hare management/employee report completed a
few months later strongly reinforced previous criticisms concerning
controller training. According to that August 1986 report, 80 per-
cent of the controllers interviewed saw training as lacking "consist-
ency and direction":
Training technique varies widely from crew to crew with
no consistent standards for position certification. Although
training is not stopped during prime leave period, it is re-
duced. Training specialists as well as other qualified staff
personnel are still used as operational coverage which af-
Additionally, that third report emphasized, among other issues,
. . . Not all persons performing OJT [on-the-job train-
ing] are qualified or talented in this area.
. . . Supervision of the training process is lax.
. . . No facility standards [exist] for position certifica-
This Committee shares the Safety Board's concern that problems
identified in 1985 had not been corrected a year later.
As noted by the Safety Board, "many, if not all of these deficien-
cies" were contributing factors to the four operational errors that
the Safety Board investigated at O'Hare during 1986. These same
problems were also involved in several of the other 10 operational
errors that have occurred at O'Hare from January 1 to July 2,
26 L. Lane Speck, Acting Manager Quality Assurance Staff, "Managerial and Operational Ef-
fectiveness Evaluation— O'Hare Tower, May 13-17, 1985" (August 6, 1985).
27 Manager, Quality Assurance Staff, "Operational Error Prevention Evaluation, O'Hare
Tower, April 28-May 8, 1986" (May 16, 1986).
28 Chairman Evaluation Team, "Internal Evaluation of O'Hare" (August 1, 1986).
29 NTSB Safety Recommendations (February 6, 1987), p. 10.
In particular, most of the deficiencies reported by the FAA eval-
uation teams and the NTSB, which have figured prominently in
operational errors at O'Hare, are traceable to poor quality assur-
ance and training. Yet having established a quality assurance pro-
gram following the 1985 evaluation, FAA management did not ade-
quately staff that important function. Again, according to the
There is no standardized oversight of the quality of per-
formance of the controllers and the controller initial and
recurrent training is ineffective. The Safety Board learned
that the staff assigned to the program were routinely
being used to provide operational shift coverage. There
were four individuals assigned to quality assurance and
training at O'Hare — the assistant manager for training
and three quality assurance and training specialists; how-
ever, they were not able to perform their assigned duties.
One specialist was detailed to the Regional Office full-time
to process ATC academy graduates assigned to O'Hare,
and another specialist was used 40 hours per week to work
operational control positions. The remaining two special-
ists also were used to meet shift coverage about 25 percent
of their available time. Clearly, these staff members were
not being used to make the quality assurance and training
program effective and efficient. 30
Just as the FAA, as noted above, did not effectively utilize its
training and quality assurance staff, the Committee has reason to
suspect that controllers also are not being effectively utilized. For
example, as the 1985 FAA internal evaluation noted: "A survey of
the facility traffic operations revealed that traffic for Saturday and
Sunday is approximately 23% less than the traffic Monday through
Friday. [Yet] [t]he facility [tower] staffing level remains the same
for all seven days of the week." 31
B. THE NTSB
The Committee appreciates the contribution of the NTSB's Feb-
ruary 1987 report in bringing to light important systemic deficien-
cies in FAA's air traffic control system at O'Hare. Yet, the Com-
mittee is troubled by the Safety Board's failure to identify and ad-
dress those issues in a more timely fashion.
The Committee notes that many of the problems addressed by
the NTSB in its February 1987 report figured in the previously dis-
cussed March 1985 fatality that involved an air taxi aircraft that
was crushed after being thrown upside down by the blasts of a 747.
That accident precipitated an NTSB staff investigation and acci-
dent report which was never forwarded to Safety Board Members
for consideration and which was not completed until July 30, 1986,
19 months after the accident. That delay is particularly trouble-
some given that the NTSB investigators on the scene appeared to
31 L. Lane Speck, "Managerial and Operational Effectiveness Evaluation — O'Hare Tower,
May 13-17, 1985" (August 6, 1985).
have completed their work in a timely fashion, less than 90 days
after the accident. 32
The staff investigation of the March, 1985 blowover disclosed the
same type of overall deficiencies that were subsequently acted upon
by the NTSB Board members two years later in their February
1987 report following a series of subsequent controller errors.
Specifically, the investigation of the March 13, 1985 taxiway fa-
tality revealed that although four controllers were assigned control
tower duty that night midnight to 8:00 a.m. that:
Only two controllers worked the cab at one time. While
two controllers worked the cab two controllers were in the
study room. 33
When the two controllers returned from the study room to re-
lieve their counterparts at 2:40 a.m. the controller in charge was
advised that the 747 was already positioned on the run-up pad.
Nevertheless, a short while later the relief controller cleared the
air taxi to proceed along an adjacent taxiway where it was de-
stroyed by the engine blasts of the 747.
Post accident interviews conducted by the NTSB invetigators ap-
proximately one week later revealed the following:
Controller 1. — This full performance level controller directed the
small aircraft to proceed along the bypass taxiway in violation of
local FAA airport regulations which placed that taxiway off limits
to traffic while another aircraft was conducting engine run-ups at a
nearby pad reserved for that purpose.
According to Controller 1:
a. Upon arriving in the tower he received a relief brief-
ing from controller 2 which included information on the
747 engine runup.
b. The assigned taxi route was selected as the most expe-
ditious route to the hanger.
c. He observed that the 747 was facing south but did not
know that this violated local FAA airport regulations.
d. He had never been advised prior to the accident, nor
was he aware, that the bypass taxiway could not be used
when an engine test was underway.
Controller 2. — Controller 2 was a full performance level control-
ler. He was the controller in charge prior to being relieved by con-
troller 1. Controller 2 recalled briefing controller 1 but could not
recall whether the high power 747 run-up was part of the briefing.
When questioned by NTSB investigators a week after the acci-
dent concerning his knowledge of the restricted use of the bypass
taxiway during run-ups, he accurately described the order. When
asked when he had last reviewed that order he replied "approxi-
mately ten minutes ago." Further questioning revealed that the
FAA O'Hare Deputy Manager had instructed controller 2 to review
the order prior to being interviewed by the NTSB investigators.
32 NTSB Bureau of Technology, "Air Traffic Control Factual Report of Investigation: March
13, 1985" (June 2, 1985).
33 NTSB, "Factual Report Aviation: March 13, 1985 Accident" (July 30, 1986), p. 2a. As,
always other controllers were at work in the radar room at the time directing traffic in the
vicinity of O'Hare.
Therefore, controller 2's "level of knowledge at the time of the acci-
dent," thus "could not be determined." 34
Significantly, the Deputy Manager denied having instructed con-
troller 2 to review the order in question prior to the interview. 35
Controller 3. — Controller 3 was a developmental controller who
was only certified to transmit routine messages to aircraft. As
such, she was not authorized to issue movement instructions to any
aircraft nor direct ground control traffic. Voice recordings re-
vealed, however, that controller 3 handled some ground traffic
before and immediately after the accident and had not signed the
ground control log. Accordingly, with two of the controllers as-
signed tower duty that night away from their posts and with a de-
velopmental controller in the tower, who was not authorized to
direct aircraft, the remaining controller on actual duty was left to
work four positions at the time of the accident — inbound and out-
bound ground control, takeoffs and landings. The NTSB investiga-
tors did not pursue whether that typical scheduling arrangement
contributed to the accident. Nor, apparently did the NTSB learn
that this was not the first engine run-up accident at O'Hare that
occurred under similar circumstances.
Taken together, the 1985 NTSB staff investigation, although not
fully and vigorously pursued, pointed to the following examples of
lax training and adherence to mandated procedures, the hallmark
of the subsequent 1986 controller errors which the Safety Board
... A full performance level controller lacked even a
perfunctory knowledge of relevant FAA airport regula-
tions concerning the positioning of aircraft during engine
run-ups and the use of an adjacent taxiway.
... A high ranking FAA O'Hare air traffic control su-
pervisor reportedly sought to coach a second full perform-
ance level controller concerning those regulations prior to
his being interviewed by the NTSB while subsequently de-
nying having done so.
. . . FAA supervisory personnel routinely ignored an
FAA directive concerning the proper positioning of aircraft
conducting engine run-ups.
... A developmental control shared duties on a position
that she was not qualified to work.
. . . FAA management in assigning four controllers to
work the late night shift regularly permitted two control-
lers to be on "break" throughout the night so that on the
night of the accident a controller worked four positions
when paired with a developmental controller who was not
certified to work any of those positions.
In the view of the Committee, the NTSB in not developing and
pursuing its 1985 staff findings which pointed to major systemic de-
ficiencies at the nation's busiest airport, delayed for a year and
one-half the initiation of Board recommendations to improve the
34 NTSB, Bureau of Technology, "Air Traffic Control Factual Report of Investigation: March
13, 1985" (June 2, 1985), p. 4.
safety of air traffic control at O'Hare. Significantly, the controller
who claimed that he had no knowledge of engine run-up noise re-
strictions and who directed the small aircraft to within 85 feet of
the 747, was involved in the May 17 and June 29, 1986 operational
errors that were later reviewed by the Safety Board. (The Safety
Board did not disclose that fact in its February, 1987 report.)
One does not have to accept all of the NTSB's delayed recom-
mendations to determine the existence of serious safety problems
at the O'Hare air traffic control facility. That one plane passed less
than 150 feet over the top of another plane heading down a runway
prior to takeoff is bad enough. For essentially the same thing to
occur about 90 days later, causing the blast from one plane to
damage the other, is more evidence of a serious safety problem. To
note that there were no less than 23 reported operational errors at
O'Hare in 1986, is to restate the obvious.
Based on the record compiled by its Subcommittee on Govern-
ment Activities and Transportation and its review of that record,
the Committee finds the following with respect to the safety of
FAA air traffic control at Chicago O'Hare International Airport:
(1) Reported controller errors at O'Hare Airport in-
creased from 14 in 1985 to 23 in 1986.
(2) The increase in reported controller errors at O'Hare
occurred in the context of a 13-percent decline in such
(3) Recent controller errors at O'Hare potentially could
have led to the death of possibly scores of persons.
(4) The controller error rate at O'Hare, on its face, is evi-
dence of an unsatisfactory and unsettling level of air traf-
fic safety at O'Hare.
(5) The work of the GAO, the NTSB and the Subcommit-
tee on Government Activities and Transportation has re-
vealed serious problems at O'Hare in terms of staffing
levels, training, controller recertification following an
error, quality assurance and management.
(6) The FAA did not respond in an adequate nor timely
fashion to the problems at O'Hare as reported by its own
in-house evaluators and as underscored by the subsequent
increase in controller errors.
(7) The NTSB was remiss in not following through on an
investigation that it commenced in the spring of 1985 fol-
lowing the death of a pilot whose plane was blown over by
the blasts from a nearby 747. That in turn contributed to a
delay in seeking to rectify conditions that led to subse-
quent controller errors at O'Hare.
The Committee is aware that last September the FAA at O'Hare
prepared an "Action Plan" to cover 12 issues that surfaced during
its recent spate of controller errors, portions of which were sched-
uled for implementation prior to the February 1987 NTSB report.
Short of a lengthy on-site review, the Committee has no immediate
means of determining the effectiveness of that plan. Its existence,
however, has enabled the FAA to characterize the subsequent
NTSB report as "outdated." The Committee hopes that to be the
case. However, the Committee questions whether an FAA manage-
ment that permitted such problems to arise in the first instance
can be exclusively relied upon to remedy them.
Accordingly, the Committee's primary recommendation concerns
the need for the FAA in Washington to demonstrate a willingness
and ability to assume an increased responsibility for a safe and effi-
cient air traffic control system at O'Hare Airport. In light of the
record number of controller errors at O'Hare and the potential
deaths of scores of persons in the aftermath of certain of those
errors, the FAA cannot afford to continue its laissez faire approach
to air traffic control problems at O'Hare Airport.
To that end, the Committee urges the FAA Administrator to ap-
point a high level review board from outside the Great Lakes
Region to perform an in-depth review of air traffic control at
O'Hare and to report to the Administrator within 120 days. Specifi-
cally, that review group should examine such issues as controller
staffing levels, training, workload and overall level of expertise.
Additionally, the review should examine quality assurance and
controller error prevention programs.
In recommending an Administrator's Review, the Committee ap-
preciates the need to increase the number of controllers at O'Hare
and the percentage of full performance level controllers. Neverthe-
less, the Committee cautions that the problem at O'Hare is not
simply one of too few controllers. None of the controller errors re-
viewed by the NTSB or discussed in this report occurred during pe-
riods of heavy traffic. Indeed, the majority of controller errors at
O'Hare have occurred during light or moderate traffic. As such, the
primary problems at O'Hare are those of poor supervision and
training in an atmosphere of apparent laxity and inattention to
The key to improved air traffic safety at O'Hare does not, there-
fore, admit to facile solutions in terms of merely increasing control-
lers or possibly reducing flights. The problems are deeper in point-
ing to an air traffic control system that has been badly managed.
Therefore, to improve the safety of air traffic control at O'Hare
International Airport in Chicago, the Committee recommends that:
(1) The FAA Administrator appoint an Administrator's
Review Board to examine the FAA's air traffic control
system at O'Hare International Airport and to monitor the
implementation of the FAA's September 1986 " Action
Plan" to improve safety at that facility.
(2) In conducting that review the Administrator's Review
Board should elicit testimony from interested parties in
public session. Individual controllers should be encouraged
to participate with no fear of reprisals.
(3) The Administrator's Review Board report to the Ad-
ministrator with recommendations for improving the
safety of air traffic control at O'Hare within 120 days of its
(4) The FAA Administrator report to the Committee
within 45 days of receipt of the Review Board report con-
cerning his acceptance or rejection of the Board's recom-
APPENDIX 1.— SYNOPSIS OF ORD ERRORS 1985
February 6, 1985 — The controller descended American 114 to
8,000 feet, the pilot read back descending to 7,000 feet. The control-
ler did not catch the mistake and the American flight passed
within 400 feet vertically and % miles horizontally of a Brittaire
February 27. 1985 — Midway 388 departed Midway airport, climb-
ing to 3,000 feet. N 200DK departed Gary, Indiana, climbing to
2,000 feet. The controller mis-identified N200DK, and climbed the
aircraft to 3,000 feet. The two aircraft passed within 200 feet verti-
cally and .8 miles horizontally.
March 28, 1985— American 252 and N1125M were both at 5,000
feet. The south departure controller allowed American 252 to enter
the south satellite airspace without coordination. American 252
passed one-half mile behind N1125M.
April 4, 1985 — American 252 was on arrival to ORD runway 9L,
United 725 was departing runway 4L. American 252 executed a go
around, passing within 50 feet vertical and 1650 feet behind United
725. The local controller was providing visual separation, however
changed both aircraft to departure control. This action negated
May 8, 1985— N822CA was on a vector to Midway at 4,000 feet.
N4114H departed Midway assigned 4,000 feet. The departure
should have been restricted to 3,000 feet. The aircraft passed
within two miles of each other.
June 30, 1985— The ORD ARTS failed, and the controller forgot
Northwest flight 458, who continued southbound through the local-
izer course passing one mile behind United 956, and 500 feet above
the other aircraft.
July 3, 1985 — American 160 was on base leg 13 miles southeast of
ORD at 3,500 feet. The departure controller climbed DAW 702 off
of Midway through the altitude of American 160. DAW 702 passed
1/2 miles behind and 600 feet above American 160.
July 3, 1985 — American 321 and Northwest 452 were on vectors
to ORD. The controller didn't recall descending American 321, who
passed within lVfc miles horizontal and 100 feet vertically of Ameri-
July 23, 1985— Republic 727 was on vectors to runway 14L at
ORD. The controller assumed he had given Republic 727 a heading
to join the localizer, which he had not. Republic 727 passed V2 mile
behind and 600 feet above United 916.
July 27, 1985— United 268 passed within 800 feet vertically and
IV2 miles horizontally of American 637. The controller had issued
United 268 a clearance to descend, and then told the aircraft to ex-
pedite. United 628, also on the frequency took the clearance. The
controller did not catch the read back by the wrong aircraft.
October 17, 1985 — N971LL was unbound to DuPage from Meigs,
decending from 4,000 to 3,000 feet. The departure controller sent
Midway 347 over to the other controller at 3,000 feet, conflicting
with N971LL. No coordination was completed. Separation was 100
feet vertically and V* miles.
November 14, 1985 — Northwest 751 was cleared for takeoff on
runway 4L. United 926 was touching down on runway 14L. Separa-
tion was not maintained at the runway intersection.
November 19, 1985— City 14, a vehicle was cleared onto the
runway for a runway check. Delta 1162 was cleared for takeoff 3
minutes later. The vehicle reported clear of the runway lVfe min-
utes after Delta was issued takoff clearance.
November 24, 1985— American 439 departed ORD heading 220
degrees climbing to 5,000 feet. Midway 177 departed Midway climb-
ing to 6,000 feet. The aircraft passed within 500 feet vertical and 1
mile horizontally of each other.
APPENDIX 2.— SYNOPSIS OF ORD ERRORS 1986
January 11, 1986 — Britt Air 711 departed runway 22L, heading
270 degrees climbing to 5,000 feet. American 287 departed runway
27L heading 250 degrees climbing to 5,000 feet. Separation de-
creased to 200 feet and 2 miles.
January 16, 1986 — Air Wisconsin 923 departed ORD climbing to
14,000 feet. N8BX departed Palwaukee, without being coordinated
and the two aircraft passed within V% mile horizontally and 500
January 20, 1986 — American 169 departed ORD climbing and
was level 5,000 feet. Midway 157 departed Midway, northwest
bound. The departure controller stopped Midway 157 at 5,000 feet
to avoid a departure from ORD. The two aircraft passed 1.76 miles
from each other.
February 24, 1986 — The departure controller failed to ensure sep-
aration between Air Wisconsin 939 and Midstates 281 both depar-
tures from ORD. The aircraft passed within 700 feet vertical and
1.43 miles horizontally.
February 25, 1986 — United 127 was at the intersection of taxiway
"Tl" and runway 32L for departure. Air Wisconsin 842 was on
final for runway 9L. The controller cleared United 127 for takeoff,
anticipating the aircraft would pass behind the arrival. This did
not occur and United 127 had to delay rotation to avoid the arrival.
February 14, 1986 — United 306 was overtaking the preceeding
aircraft on approach. The tower controller issued United 306 in-
structions to go around, and turned the flight back into th airport.
United 306 passed within .9 miles of Britt Air 250 on final ap-
February 7, 1986— American 508 over took N6670C on climb out,
passing within 800 feet vertically and 1.20 miles horizontally of the
April 10, 1986 — The tower controller failed to provide separation
between TWA 811 and United 472 on departure.
May 17, 1986 — The tower controller failed to provide separation
between American 695 and US Air 573 on crossing runways, both
aircraft were departing.
May 23, 1986— The controller forgot N16522 at 4,000 feet, and
climbed United 222 within 1 mile of the aircraft.
June 16, 1986 — The controller descended Japan Airlines flight 10
to 10,000 feet. The pilot read back and descended to 3,000 feet. The
flight conflicted with N270HC, passing within 200 feet vertically
and 1.25 miles horizontally.
June 26, 1986— The controller issued N30LM 7,000 by mistake.
The aircraft conflicted with Air Wisconsin 761, passing within 400
feet of the aircraft.
June 30, 1986 — The tower controller issued both departures a
healing of 070 degrees off of intersecting runways. Separation de-
creased to 200 feet vertical and 1 mile horizontal.
July 2, 1986 — Separation was lost between two departures when
one controller adheared to noise abatement procedures and the
other one did not.
July 15, 1986 — The controller stopped an arrival at 6,000 feet to
allow a departure from Palwaukee to pass below it. The controller
forgot to reclear the arrival for the approach. American 181 was at
6,000 feet and conflicted with N371MC at the same altitude. Sepa-
ration was 100 feet vertical and 1.02 horizontal.
August 11, 1986 — The city vehicle was cleared onto the runway
for a runway check. The controller forgot the vehicle and cleared
an aircraft for takeoff.
September 17, 1986 — American 231 conflicted with American
293, when the departure controller prematurely lifted a speed re-
striction. Separation was 200 feet vertical and 4.03 miles horizontal
in Center airspace.
October 1, 1986 — Wild Onion 1512 was issued a clearance to 8,000
feet. The aircraft was handed off to Rockford approach with no
data strip being transmitted. Rockford based control on the aircraft
read out of 6,000 feet in the climb. Wild Onion 1512 conflicted with
N45114 at 6,000 feet. The ORD controller did not abide by the
Letter of Agreement with Rockford.
October 22, 1986— The local controller cleared United 141 for
takeoff on runway 9R with United 725 in position on runway 22L.
United 141 passed 500 feet above United 725.
October 25, 1986 — American 955 was allowed to land while
American 321 was still on the runway.
October 31, 1986 — The controller failed to ensure separation be-
tween two entrail aircraft.
November 20, 1986 — The controller vectored a departure in close
proximity to another aircraft, separation was .7 miles.
December 9, 1986 — The controller failed to ensure separation be-
tween crossing courses. . . . Separation deteriorated to 200 feet
vertical and 1.86 miles horizontal.
ADDITIONAL VIEWS OF HON. J. DENNIS HASTERT
This report's findings and recommendations are appropriate and
timely. Clearly, there are a number of problems with the air traffic
control system at O'Hare International Airport that, taken togeth-
er, have resulted in an overall decrease in efficiency and safety at
A number of other important issues were raised at the Govern-
ment Activities and Transportation Subcommittee hearing, but are
not discussed in the report. I feel it is essential that these issues
also be brought to the attention of the Committee, in order for us
to gain a full understanding of all the factors that impact air traf-
fic safety in the Chicago area.
One of the key issues raised at the hearing concerned the 1984
implementation of a high-low sectorization traffic control system at
the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, Illinois
(Chicago Center). As a consequence of this action, all air traffic con-
trollers (ATC) at the Chicago Center, regardless of their experience
or skill level, were redesignated as trainees and were required to
recertify on both high altitude and low altitude traffic sectors.
Prior to this, ATC's were certified — and specialized — on either one
sector or the other.
Ostensibly, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandat-
ed this change to produce more-versatile controllers and to increase
flexibility in air traffic management. It has become apparent that
what it got was quite another thing all together. Since the Subcom-
mittee hearing in February, I have further discussed this issue
with ATC's at the Chicago Center. They are convinced that, due to
the complexity and volume of traffic handled by the Center, the
high-low policy has contributed to an increase in operational errors
at the facility.
Part of the problem was brought on by the fact that the imple-
mentation of the high-low system was accompanied by a reduction
in the overall effectiveness and quality of developmental controller
training. Prior to 1984, Chicago Center ATC's were trained in
groups of two sectors at a time (usually the less active "wing sec-
tors"). Thereafter, training for each new sector required less time,
because the type of traffic and the conditions were the same as
those on which the controllers received their initial instructions.
Under high-low, more training time and therefore more trainers
are needed to prepare controllers to deal with the added variables
involved in dual-altitude traffic management. However, due to in-
adequate staffing levels and congressional pressure to increase the
number of fully certified controllers on the job, trainees are being
"rushed" through the three-step training process, and often are
being forced to work sectors of traffic they may not be adequately
prepared to handle. In addition, some of these inexperienced ATC's
are then expected to provide on-the-job training for other develop-
mental controllers. This short-cut approach to training has already
produced operational errors and near collisions that were blamed
on inadequate controller training or inexperience.
Another potential safety hazard of the high-low system is created
by the requirement that contollers switch from one altitude to the
other (often more than once) during a shift. There are certain criti-
cal differences between high and low altitude traffic management
that must be taken into account to efficiently and safely direct
traffic through each sector. If a controller fails to adjust effectively
when moving from one altitude sector to the other, what may
appear to be nothing more than a minor miscalculation or misread-
ing could result in a violation of air separation requirements, a
near collision, or worse. Even experienced ATC's have had prob-
lems in this area.
I have been informed that the Chicago Center is scheduled to
convert solely to a low altitude facility in 1992 or thereabout. In
light of this fact, the FAA should reconsider its high-low policy at
the Chicago Center, or at least seriously consider some of the con-
cerns and suggested improvements that have been made by control-
lers since the new policy was put into effect. At a minimum, the
agency should open up new channels of communication between
controllers and area managers and the FAA in Washington. Other-
wise, a repeat of the 1981 job action will all but be inevitable.
Another primary issue was the inadequacy of staffing levels at
both O'Hare and the Center. Although the FAA has on numerous
occasions expressed the intention of increasing the number of con-
trollers — and particularly, full performance level controllers — at
both facilities, there are still a number of obstacles that, if not alle-
viated, will continue to deter qualified controllers from transfer-
ring to the Chicago area.
During the hearing, then FAA Great Lakes Regional Director
Paul Bohr assured the Subcommittee that he was taking positive,
creative steps to recruit qualified, experienced ATC's to relocate in
the Chicago area. He, along with other witnesses, discussed some of
the reasons why it is difficult to bring controllers into the region,
including the local climate, cost of living, and challenging work en-
vironment (i.e. the quantity and complexity of traffic). In subse-
quent discussions, I have learned of another obstacle that has not
received much attention.
The 1981 strike and subsequent firing of 11,400 ATC's left most
air traffic facilities with substantially less than the number of con-
trollers necessary to effectively manage the work load. As a result,
facility managers who are struggling to rebuild their work force are
extremely reluctant to let go of experienced ATC's. This creates
problems for controllers who seek promotions or transfers to other
FAA facilities. Recently, a Chicago Center controller related the
difficulty he encountered attempting to do just that.
Rather than being discouraged, this individual cited the challeng-
ing aspect of the Chicago area as a positive factor that motivated
him to seek a transfer. Unfortunately, he encountered a major
roadblock that almost frustrated his efforts to relocate. When he
originally submitted a request to transfer from the Houston Center
to Chicago, Houston management informed him that he could not
get a release date until the Chicago Center made him an offer of
employment. Accordingly, he visited Chicago to inquire about such
an offer, but was informed that no such offer could be extended
until the Houston Center provided him with a release date. This
stalemate continued for nine months, with neither region willing to
yield, until this individual was finally able to find a controller at
Chicago willing to make a mutual trade in duty stations. This one-
for-one trade was eventually approved by both Centers, as long as
the controllers were willing to pay their own moving expenses. We
can only wonder how many other qualified controllers have tried
but failed to get released from some other facility so that they
could transfer to Chicago.
The FAA should consider modifying its personnel transfer policy,
to allow controllers more flexibility in bidding on vacant positions
at other air traffic control facilities and to receive deserved promo-
tions. One way to accomplish this would be to centralize final au-
thority on proposed relocations. If a facility or regional manager
denies a transfer request, the controller should have the opportuni-
ty to appeal to the FAA Administrator or a designated authority.
Otherwise, ATC's will continue to encounter obstacles that limit
their ability to grow professionally, discouraging them and others
from remaining air traffic controllers.
J. Dennis Hastert.
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