Help on the way for Hawaii air traffic controllers - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Help on the way for Hawaii air traffic controllers

Ian Gregory Ian Gregory

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - For many passengers on a flight, take offs and landings can be the most stressful time. Now, imagine worrying about hundreds of arrivals and departures everyday. That's what Hawaii's air traffic controllers have to do. But they'll soon get some help, in keeping us safe.

They play a key role in making sure your flight lands safely at the airport. But many of Hawaii's air traffic controllers have been departing the business.

"We've seen a wave of retirements. Because many of the air traffic controllers hired in the 1980s are coming of retirement age, we need to replenish the workforce with new controllers," Ian Gregor, with the Federal Aviation Administration.

In fact, one third of the 91 controllers on the job, are new and currently undergoing training. Learning how to monitor and direct dozens of flights, which are flying hundreds of miles an hour both toward and away from the airport.

Inexperienced tower controllers can be hazard at a busy airport like Honolulu, where they must practice, under supervision, with real flights.

But soon, they'll be able to direct traffic at Hawaii's brand new control tower simulator.

"Controllers will be able to practice their jobs under realistic conditions, instead of working live traffic," said Gregor.

That is just one new item the federal government is putting in place to keep things safe. Ground radar will also be added at Honolulu, along with three dozen other airports, to keep track of planes, fuel trucks and other vehicles on the ground at all times. This system will alert controllers if any of those vehicles are in a hazardous position.

"Anytime we can find new technology that will improve efficiency and safety, we'll install it"

The new control tower simulator is being programmed right now and aviation officials expect it will be operational in October.

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