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Published: Saturday, 1/30/2010

Toledo Express air traffic controllers fight move of radar unit

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Air traffic controllers at Toledo Express Airport strongly oppose what they say is a plan by the Federal Aviation Administration to move some of their duties to Cleveland.

The controllers maintain the FAA intends to relocate the terminal radar approach control - sometimes called TRACON - function at Toledo Express to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Such a move, they say, would mean diminished service for general aviation at Toledo Express, less safety, higher costs, and a reduction in efficiency.

The FAA has made no decision to relocate the TRACON, spokesman Elizabeth Isham Cory said, but is considering doing so.

"I think that like any business, we're always looking for ways to improve service to the customer," Ms. Cory said.

The controllers insist the decision has been made, but not announced. They point out that Dayton International Airport's TRACON is being transferred to Columbus in the summer and say the FAA plan calls for the TRACON at Toledo Express to be moved to Cleveland by November, 2013.

The Toledo Express TRACON is at the base of the control tower and handles planes ascending and descending up to 40 miles away, in a rough circle around the airport, but not takeoffs and landings.

Micah Maziar, president of the controllers' union local, said he has seen the blueprint for a new control tower planned for Toledo Express and it contains no TRACON room.

The controllers, whose union is the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, emphasize the matter is not a labor issue. Their jobs are not threatened.

"If we move to Cleveland, they'll have to hire more controllers and pay me more because I'll be in a busier airport," Mr. Maziar said.

To make their case, the controllers met last night at Toledo Express. The union also has set up a Web site, localairportsmatter.com.

Alexandra Caldwell, a spokesman for the national union, said under the purported FAA plan, pilots at Toledo Express could find themselves at the mercy of controllers who have never been to northwest Ohio.

But Ms. Cory of the FAA noted that Cleveland Hopkins already provides backup for Toledo Express.

"If Toledo went down today, Cleveland would take over," she said. "No controller will work traffic for a particular area until he or she is trained and fully certified on that sector, which includes knowing all of the unique aspects of that airspace."

She said the FAA was installing a new tower at the Dayton airport that would not include TRACON because "TRACON is tremendously expensive. Why duplicate these services when you have them just down the road in Columbus?"

Tim Janiak, a Spartan Chemical Co. pilot, said he was comfortable with Toledo Express and didn't want to see things change.

"I think it would compromise safety," he said.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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