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Orlando Airport Safety Facility Called ‘Outdated, in Disrepair’ Posing ‘Threat to Passengers and Staff’

Congresswoman Val Demings recently visited Central Florida TRACON (F11) with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. left to right: F11 Operating Manager Tom DellaVechia, Scheele, FacRep Fabian Sanchez, Congresswoman Demings, Air Traffic Manager Kris Tucker, PASS North Florida District Representative George Black, and F11/Orlando ATCT (MCO) PASS Member Anthony Gutierrez.

Three U.S. Representatives from Central Florida are raising serious concerns about the Central Florida Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility located at Orlando International Airport (MCO), even saying “facility poses a safety threat to passengers and staff.” Reps. Val Demings, Darren Soto, and Stephanie Murphy sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration Billy Nolen calling on the FAA to invest in a replacement building for the TRACON facility (F11).

“The Central Florida TRACON was built in 1983 and has become an outdated facility. It is tasked with controlling an airspace that includes the 7th busiest airport in the country,” the Members wrote in the congressional letter. “We recently toured F11 and promoted funding in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. We were alarmed by the conditions FAA personnel, including professional controllers and Airway Transportation System specialists, are required to endure while ensuring the safety of the traveling public. A single emergency or catastrophic incident would be devastating to the passengers, crew, controllers, safety specialists, and their families. At an estimated $60 million dollars, it is critical for the FAA to replace one of the country’s busiest TRACON facilities.”

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $5 billion to replace Air Traffic facilities, update and upgrade equipment including landing and navigational aids, and improve safety, security, and environmental standards at facilities. Reps. Demings, Soto, and Murphy voted for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed with bipartisan support from Congress last year.

“After the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, I inspected the Orlando TRACON center and spoke with the air safety staff there,” said Rep. Demings, who is also currently running for U.S. Senate. “I found that the building was nearly falling apart. The superb team at the Orlando TRACON are doing a heroic job to keep the traveling public safe despite growing technical limitations, and it is critical that the FAA use the funding we passed in the bipartisan infrastructure plan to replace this facility and keep the public safe.”

That’s a very different message than Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer tells about the airport and Orlando’s infrastructure. Of course, travelers are forced to listen to Dyer’s tram speech at MCO, but it does not include a safety warning about the facility responsible for controlling the airspace. Now Central Florida’s Representatives are sounding the alarm.

After a tour of Central Florida TRACON (F11), Rep. Demings was shown pictures of the TRACON that show how the facility is “sadly pieced together.” The staff said in a press release, “Congresswoman Demings was shocked by the photos, at one point asking if the FAA was alright with facilities being patched together like this. Congresswoman Demings saw the value in replacing the facility.”

Rep. Soto agreed, saying the facility posed a public safety threat when he saw it firsthand. “After visiting the Orlando TRACON center and meeting with air safety staff, it became clear that the facility poses a safety threat to passengers and staff at MCO,” said Rep. Soto. “I was proud to vote in favor of the Build Back Better Infrastructure Law to provide the FAA with millions of dollars in funding, and urge the FAA to ensure the safety of MCO passengers and staff by replacing this facility.”

“Orlando’s Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) Facility manages one of the busiest airspaces in the country, which is used by tens of millions of passengers each year,” added Rep. Murphy. “TRACONs are critically important for safely managing airspace, overseeing departures as well as descent, approach, and arrivals at large airports. And yet, the Orlando facility is outdated and in disrepair. This facility serves nine local airports, including the Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) in my district. That’s why I’m joining my Central Florida colleagues in urging the Federal Aviation Administration to replace this facility, so it can continue to do its indispensable work.”

See the full letter here.

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