Local controllers recognized

Workers who guide planes into McCarran International and other Southern Nevada airports won a Facility of the Year award from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The award to the Las Vegas TRACON facility at McCarran covered the 2007 fiscal year and rewarded workers for a year free of serious errors during which they handled 700,000 aircraft.

“I think everybody enjoys having some recognition for the job they do,” said Del Meadows, air traffic manager for the Las Vegas district.

The TRACON facility, which stands for terminal radar approach control, guides aircraft heading in and out of McCarran, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City and Jean airports. TRACON workers are responsible for flights when they are between about five and 30 miles from the airport and up to about 19,000 feet in altitude, Meadows said.

The work includes guiding pilots between approach and departure stages and “en route” status, much of which is essentially getting aircraft into the proper position on approach or making sure they have room to climb on departure.

The Las Vegas TRACON was the 13th busiest facility of its kind in the nation in 2007. It was one of 21 competing for the Facility of the Year Award.

In addition to rarity of errors, the FAA included productivity and innovation in the criteria for the award.

Among the innovations recognized in Las Vegas was an effort to guide as many as 500 to 700 extra helicopter operations per day during a NASCAR event at the Las Vegas Speedway.

The TRACON workers teamed up with workers from the control tower, who guide aircraft within five miles of the airport and on the ground, to set up a temporary control operation at the speedway, Meadows said.

“We take some of our controllers and put a temporary tower out there,” he said.

The award is a bit of good news for workers in the FAA, which has faced turmoil in recent years.

The labor contract between the FAA and controllers nationally expired in 2003 and was extended until 2005. Negotiations for a new contract failed and in 2006 the government imposed one, to the chagrin of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union for controllers.

Since then, controllers have said the government is replacing too many veterans with trainees and jeopardizing safety in the process. The FAA disputes the allegations and says the system is safe.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

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