FAA proposes to cut weather observer jobs

Air traffic controllers at MacArthur Airport are trying to make sure a plan to get rid of the airport's meteorologists doesn't get off the ground.

They say the FAA's proposal to eliminate 400 contract weather observers nationwide could put the lives of passengers at risk. Seven of those positions are held by workers at MacArthur Airport.

Air traffic controllers have been told they may have to start taking their own weather readings with automated equipment.

Hank Berg, a meteorologist for over 30 years, is one of those whose job is on the chopping block at MacArthur. He says the plan could leave pilots and the traveling public at MacArthur and 56 other airports in jeopardy.

"If you're not going outside you may not see exactly what's going on. It may not be reported correctly. When you talk about freezing rain and sleet, that can affect the aerodynamics of a plane," says Berg.

The FAA is defending the plan saying it will conduct safety reviews at the 57 sites to evaluate the potential transfer of weather reporting to controllers. They invited airports, air carriers, pilots and other stakeholders to participate in the safety reviews.

News 12 Chief Meteorologist Bill Korbel, a pilot, says trained airport meteorologists are crucial for the traveling public.

"Some of the information that the observers report are not given on the automated weather system," he says, listing thunderstorms west of the airport moving east, frequent lightning and fog banks moving in as examples

Berg says the FAA's final decision on contract weather observers will be made early next year.

The FAA plan would not only eliminate contract weather observers, it would also eliminate Islip as an official National Weather Service recording site after 60 years of record-keeping.

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