Controllers: Newark takeoff pattern problematic

November 20, 2008 5:18:21 PM PST
Air traffic controllers at Newark Liberty Airport claim that months after a new procedure was put in place to help alleviate congestion, some planes continue to turn in the wrong direction while taking off. According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, three planes flew the wrong heading on Monday, including one that was operated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

NATCA said that makes more than 20 instances at Newark since the FAA established the new patterns last December.

In a statement Thursday, the FAA said the procedures are "operationally feasible and safe."

"There have been times since the implementation of the dispersal headings when other aircraft have departed the airport to the south and have not followed the assigned heading upon takeoff," the agency said. "In those instances controllers - as they are trained to do - quickly brought the aircraft back on course."

Controllers have said the incidents have not put planes in imminent danger of colliding with other planes.

The new patterns were part of the first phase of the FAA's airspace redesign project aimed at easing congestion in the New York metropolitan area.

Several incidents in May where planes turned the wrong way prompted the FAA to issue a computerized notice to all pilots that is kept in every cockpit.

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