FAA changes air traffic control operation


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday announced an administrative shakeup intended to make the agency's air traffic services more efficient.

The air traffic control system will be combined with research and acquisition activities into a single air traffic organization, which will be divided into five business units, the agency said.

Research and acquisition has been a sore point for the FAA. Its $1.69 billion air traffic control modernization system, for example, has been plagued by delays and cost overruns.

The new air traffic organization "will bring about lasting change in how we manage our air traffic services, systems and resources," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.

In the first phase, it will look for ways to cut costs and to improve performance and accountability, the FAA said.

Russell Chew will lead the air traffic organization. Chew, a former airline pilot, was recruited in June as the agency's first-ever chief operating officer. He spent 20 years at American Airlines, where he was a captain, managing director of the airline's strategic operations planning and manager of technical flight operations.

Congress created the position of chief operating officer in 2000. An aviation commission in 1997 recommended establishing an air traffic organization.

John Carr, president of the air traffic controllers union, hailed the move as "bold and smart."

"Many people in the aviation community, including myself, thought the COO was just here to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic," Carr said in a statement. "Russ's plan gives us a realistic chance of missing the iceberg."

The five business units will be: En Route and Oceanic; Terminal; Flight Services; System Operations; and Technical Operations.

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