The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to re-examine its proposal to move Terminal Radar Approach Control facilities, which monitor surrounding air traffic, from Abilene Regional Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
The FAA has begun consolidating TRACON facilities across the country, but because of the FAA's conflicting reports regarding the projected cost-benefit of the Abilene move, U.S. Representative Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, requested an investigation and report from the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III.
“They've put forth two or three studies, but the numbers never really put out what was the right cost-benefit analysis for the taxpayers,” Neugebauer said.
According to Scovel’s report, the FAA”s first business report in 2008 projected $7.4 million in savings and a 2010 report projected more than $57 million in savings if TRACON operations were moved to the Metroplex. However, the 2011 report, conducted by an independent contractor, concluded it would cost $18 million more to move TRACON operations out of Abilene.
“In summary, our review found that none of FAA’s three business cases presented a comprehensive picture of the costs and potential benefits of the Agency’s Abilene TRACON realignment effort,” Scovel reported.
His report also said the FAA’s findings was based on estimates of future costs that “will likely differ from what will actually be implemented, resulting in different costs and savings.”
FAA officials said the move would not cause local controllers to lose their jobs. According to the FAA’s website, “when TRACONs are co-located, the controllers in those facilities are offered positions at the airport traffic control towers at their current locations, or at the new co-located TRACON.”
Neugebauer said he wants to make sure the proposed consolidation does not compromise taxpayer dollars, safety or local jobs. Since Scovel’s report, Neugebauer said FAA officials informed him they plan to conduct a “more methodical review” of the proposal.
“As it turns out now we believe that the FAA is going to do a more comprehensive cost-benefit analysis about not only just this airport but airports across the country as to whether this is the best way to deliver services for the most bang for the buck,” Neugebauer said. “We feel like before a final decision is made, we need to see some good tangible numbers.”
Abilene’s Director of Aviation Don Green said the review process could take one to three years to complete.