Air travel in and out of the Hub City could become more dangerous in the next few months. The Federal Aviation Administration has announced they are downgrading Lubbock International Airport and will be taking away its Contracted Weather Office. The office monitors weather patterns 24/7 and reports back to Air Traffic Control.
An employee who requested to remain anonymous came forward with his concerns.
"Whenever there's dangerous, threatening or rapidly changing weather, we'll issue an aviation selected report. Airline dispatchers read our observations and decide if we should divert the aircraft," they said.
The FAA's CWO employs eight meteorologists and qualified scientists. However, because Lubbock no longer meets certain traffic requirements, the FAA does not believe the service in necessary. The employee says he received an email from the FAA last week saying Lubbock's Service Level B status would be downgraded and on May 1st, along with 14 other CWO's across the country, their doors would close.
"It's a slap in the face. An absolute slap in the face," the employee said.
So who will be keeping an eye on the South Plains' sky now? A computer actually, that doesn't have the best track record.
"Do you want trained people with extensive backgrounds reporting your weather? Or do you want a machine that is notorious for getting it wrong?"
Weathering duties will also be left up to Air Traffic Controllers.
The anonymous employee says, "We're against that. Why? Because they're air traffic controllers. They are best at guiding you from point A to point B safely. They do not need the distraction of having to stop guiding traffic to look outside and decide what the weather is doing. That's our job."
This employee says Air Traffic Controllers aren't trained in the levels of meteorology needed to keep the skies safe. The FAA disagrees.
In a statement released to KCBD they said:
"The Federal Aviation Administration continues to provide a high level of weather information for pilots using Lubbock's Preston Smith International Airport. Due to lower traffic levels, the facility no longer qualifies for contract weather observation. This service – which primarily consists of supplementing information from the airport's sophisticated automated weather station -- is now being performed by specially trained air traffic controllers. The level of safety will not be affected."
However, this employee says he's got the backing of numerous pilots and Air Traffic Controllers.
"The best response I've had is from a pilot who said that this is a bucket full of BS."
It's an uphill battle, but this employee refuses to give up the fight. He wants to continue doing his job, keeping passengers safe.
"We have the sincere fear of what will happen to the air transportation system in this country. This is a big threat. It should not be taken lightly," he said.
The employee has been in contact with Congressman Neugebauer, along with Senators Cruz and Cornyn. He encourages any concerned citizens to contact these officials and share their discontent.
Congressman Randy Neugebauer
611 University Ave. Suite 220
Lubbock, TX 79401
Senator John Cornyn
517 Hart Senate Office BLDG
Washington D.C. 20510
Senator Ted Cruz
Dircksen Sen. Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
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