The Federal Aviation Administration wants the “crash phone” fixed.
That phone serves as an emergency line and alert system that allows workers in the control tower to call for airport fire and rescue squads without dialing. It can be critical if there’s a crash or other major incident, or if an aircraft is in trouble.
Records released to the I-Team show the FAA wrote up the crash phone after a recent inspection.
But an air traffic manager in the control tower also recently sent an e-mail to the chief of staff for Mayor Justin Bibb.
The memo said no one can count on an emergency line called the “crash phone.” That serves as a way for the tower to call airport firefighters without dialing.
“The system is severely unreliable,” the air traffic manager wrote, adding that it’s “constantly out of service.”
“We never know if the system will work,” she added.
The e-mail went on to say that this has been an “ongoing issue for several years,” and it’s “only getting worse.”
After the recent inspection, the FAA noted the city has put in place a temporary fix, so no enforcement action was taken. But the city must have the system permanently fixed by March.
When we first reported on this, we shared the information with a flight attendant.
“It’s pretty scary,” she said. “We are safety professionals, and we expect our passengers to be safe. Knowing in the back of our head that our airport might not be completely safe? It’s not fair.”
We also turned to Robert Katz, a commercial pilot and flight instructor. He’s been a pilot more than 40 years.
“It’s as critical as it gets,” Katz said.
He pointed out you can’t rely on someone calling 911 if something happens on the airfield.
In fact, that e-mail from the tower also said: “The seconds that we waste could make all the difference.”
Katz added, “It strikes me as unconscionable that something like this could fall through the cracks. There needs to be an open line 24-7 between the tower and the facilities on the airport.”
The Hopkins airport fire department sits at the end of a road almost in the shadow of the control tower.
The city also issued a statement earlier.
“Safety and security are the number one priority at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. We are aware of the email you mentioned. We take great pride in our relationship with our regulatory partners.
“We can assure you that the longer-term improvements to this system are in process and will be implemented as expeditiously as possible. The status of the procurement was much further along than stated in the email you are referencing in your inquiry. Although upgrades are being made to the current system, there has always been a contingency plan in place, which is approved by the FAA.”