City Government

Politicos Seek To Mandate FAA Decisions

A story in the DAILY PAPER today by Joe Estrella says the Federal Aviation Administration is scurrying to get ahead of the politicos in their desire to move the local approach radar facility from Boise to Salt Lake City.

Idaho and Boise politicians cite “economic and safety concerns” in their opposition to the move. After the move we doubt Team Dave or the rest of the Idaho politicos will go on the record telling travelers, “Safety at Boise’s airport has been compromised and it is not as safe to fly here as it used to be!”

At this point it is a case of politicians attempting to cater to the locals (which isn’t ALL bad) by attempting to micromanage the FAA. Too bad they don’t like citizens to do the same when it comes to spending for trains and street cars (we still like the term “trolley).
The local approach radar known as TRACON (terminal radar approach control) would have been housed in the new control tower that pierces the horizon on the south side of the airfield. Radar operators work in a dark room looking at a screen. It doesn’t matter if they are in Boise, Salt Lake or Bangalore. This entire event is driven by politics, perceived savings (or not), JOBS, and the air traffic controller’s union.

The “safety concern” issue that controllers in Salt Lake are not familiar with Boise air space is simply bogus. Soon after a plane takes off from Boise, control is “handed off” to Salt Lake Center. When a plane flies from Boise to Salt Lake for instance, there isn’t a controller who is especially familiar with the air over Twin Falls and Burley directing the flight path. Air space is just that–space. It doesn’t matter where the radar operator sits.

For instance: when you call the Idaho State Police in places like Pocatello, Sandpoint, or Stanley the phone rings in MERIDIAN. When the fire alarm is pulled in a Boise school the alarm is transmitted via phone lines to SALT LAKE. The private alarm company then calls the Boise 911 dispatch center.

Even the nasty job of killing terrorists is done by drone aircraft which are often operated hundreds, if not thousands of miles away, by “pilots” sitting in windowless darkened rooms–just like the TRACON radar techs.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Dr Spiegelvogel
    Dec 12, 2009, 11:24 am

    The safety based argument that controllers in SLC will not be familiar with terrain in the Boise area is unsupported. With Google Earth, and oh that other invention, maps, and also orientation trips to Boise, the controllers will be just as familiar.

    Another example of politicos reaching for a bottom- of- the- barrel argument that many of the dangerously uninformed will buy.

    This is about jobs leaving Boise, nothing else.

    Another example: How about the breakout a landing in SLC costing over $36 but Boise’s cost is $12. Somehow, if the TRACON leaves, Boise’s costs are going up? Let’s see the data on both cost figures. Even the most casual observer might smell this one out.

    EDITOR NOTE–Boise costs should indeed remain constant unless they pay the staff 3 times as much in Salt Lake. Boise landings would remain apart from Salt Lake landings. We presume the figures were determined by the cost of staffing divided by landings. Salt Lake probably has more controllers with a much busier sky. No doubt other factors are also included.

  2. Casual Observer
    Dec 12, 2009, 11:42 am

    If memory serves, this deal was cut in congress about 6 years ago. The new tower south of the field was sort of parting shot at the FAA from craig. ie, “Okay, you can move the operations to Salt Lake, but we still require you to build the tower in Boise.”

    The need for an empty tower, then or now, mystifies me. All in the name of construction jobs, I suppose.

    At this point, the brouhaha is little more than posturing by the politicos. The move the operations to Salt Lake train has been on the track for a long time and our congressional delegation doesn’t have the power to stop it.

    EDITOR NOTE–You are correct. The REAL reason for the new tower is to take care of another runway aimed at attracting a FREIGHT HUB with massive jets coming and going at all hours and increased truck traffic…all in the name of GROWTH and jobs.

  3. Thanks for the explanation of how this works….didn’t understand how the controller system would be set up – doesn’t sound unsafe at all. Don’t get the cost difference though.

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