Thursday, January 7, 2016

I-Team: Federal Aviation Administration documents show plan to cut jobs in Portland, Bangor - Maine

PORTLAND (WGME) - The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing to cut jobs and close weather observation offices at the Portland Jetport and Bangor International Airport, according to internal planning documents obtained by the I-Team.

Weather observers say the proposal will make flying in and out of Maine's airports dangerous for pilots and passengers.

The airports in Portland and Bangor use an automated weather observing system, but the National Weather Service says the system has limitations so right now the FAA uses five trained and certified weather observers in Portland, seven in Bangor, working around the clock, to ensure your safety.

Weather observers contracted by the FAA help make sure pilots are getting good weather information for each take off and landing. They're a manual backup and supplement automated and computerized weather system information.

According to FAA documents, the agency has plans to cut those jobs in Portland, Bangor and 55 other cities.

"I think it's irresponsible and dangerous the FAA would propose to sacrifice public safety to save a few bucks in the budget," Senior Weather Observer Megan Lumsden said.

The National Weather Service jointly runs the automated observing system with the FAA and explains the sensor system isn't designed to report things like ice, blowing snow, and any weather around the airport that hasn't yet encountered a sensor; its eyes only see directly overhead.

In a statement to the I-Team, the FAA said it's committed to having human backup at all airports and would transition weather observing duties to its air traffic controllers.

"FAA controllers and its contract tower controllers already provide critical weather reporting services at more than 390 airports.  The agency will conduct safety reviews at the 57 sites to evaluate the potential transfer of weather reporting to controllers," the statement said.

Safety reviews in Portland and Bangor are expected to happen this year. Jetport Director Paul Bradbury told CBS 13 he doesn't have a position on the FAA proposal.


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