Albany airport control is fully staffed - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Albany airport control is fully staffed

September 1, 2006

Albany -- Last weekend's plane crash in Kentucky pointed out that many of the nation's airports are short staffed with air traffic controllers.

Only one controller was on duty at the Lexington Airport when a Comair Flight took off from the wrong runway, killing 49 people. Federal regulations say two controllers were supposed to be on duty. 

The Federal Aviation Administration admits many smaller airports are short staffed, and that safety could suffer. But the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport air traffic manager says they are an exception, and that air travelers can have confidence in Albany's staff.

Air Traffic Controller Cathy Haas directs an Air Force PC-9 trainer from Moody Air Force base as it does a low level fly exercise at Albany's airport. The air traffic control tower is managed by Al Stanford, who has been an air traffic controller for 54 years. 

He says he hurt when he heard about the Lexington crash. "Devastating. Devastating."

But Stanford wants to assure people Albany's tower is not understaffed.  They have five full time air traffic controllers, based on the number of flights and air traffic. Two are mandated to be on duty from 6:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night during the week, and from 8:00 to 8:00 on the weekends. 

Stanford is proud his team has a combined 156 years combined experience, and that experience leads to safety.  "I feel wonderful about it. I've got good people, and they do a good job."

"Each one of these [radar] blips is a target, an airplane." Stanford is proud of the Albany airport equipment, with STARS radar that can keep up with all flights within 100 miles. "This is the moody area down here..."

Their radio system is also top of the line, keeping pilots flying in the area today aware of the presence of migrating geese.  The Southwest Georgia Regional airport this year will handle more than 56,000 flight operations, with military training traffic doubling in the last twelve months.

Stanford says he knows there are staffing problems in some airports, but he is proud Albany's airport received a perfect 100 score in last year's F.A.A. evaluation, and says their tower does not have staffing safety issues. "I think that the public ought to be satisfied it's safe here in Albany Georgia."

The Southwest Georgia Regional Airport air traffic controllers work for the contracting company C. I. Square.  Four air traffic controllers are members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, but Stanford can not be, since he is a supervisor.

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