posted on March 11, 2013 17:02
Alexandria, Va. - In less than 30 days, three out of every four air traffic control towers (189 out of 251) managed under the Federal Contract Tower Program are slated to close as a result of draconian budget cuts known as the sequester.
But there is an even more urgent deadline. Users of the 189 airports have until the close of business on this Wednesday, March 13, 2013, to make the case before the FAA for keeping a tower open.
Under this "pseudo-appeals" process, if an operator can make a compelling case showing that closing the tower would harm the national interest, it may remain open. Comments from affected airports will be accepted through Wednesday, with a final decision by Monday, March 18.
HAI President Matt Zuccaro strongly encourages all HAI members to carefully check the lists of airports whose towers are to close and airports whose tower staffing will be reduced. HAI has also learned that, in addition to the contract towers, the FAA plans to close or reduce staff at 49 federally staffed control towers, pending union negotiations. Here are steps to take if the facility you operate from is on one of the lists:
1. Review the list of facilities to be eliminated;
2. Calculate the number and type of operations you conduct on a weekly basis;
3. Make sure you weigh in with your airport directors before March 13 to request they appeal the FAA decision;
4. Send an email to HAI (email@example.com) and include your name, company, type of operations, number of weekly operations as well as name of airport (city and state); and,
5. Contact your elected representatives for the House and Senate in Washington, D.C., to express your concern and get this issue on lawmakers' radars. Urge them to save the contract tower program.
Sequestration is not a one-time, short-sighted approach to reducing government costs. Unless Congress changes the law passed in 2011, the budget cuts as a result of sequestration will be lasting. Mandated spending cuts placed on the FAA fall under the agency's Operations budget. This means reducing expenses associated with the scheduling of personnel (including air traffic controllers, flight facility technicians, and others employed by the agency). This also includes contract work being performed for the FAA as well as preventative maintenance and repair work provided to facilities and services used by the agency and its customers in the aviation community.
Make no mistake about it - service reductions at the towers will have a disproportionate impact on general aviation. There is tremendous concern in Washington that once a contract tower is closed, it will never be reopened. The FAA has identified FAA-funded contract towers as well as government-run control towers with less than 150,000 total operations, or less than 10,000 commercial operations that will potentially be closed to meet sequester requirements.
The problems for aviation - and general aviation in particular - don't stop with the towers. The FAA also anticipates a reduced ability to provide upkeep on its facilities and services, including navigational aids (NAVAIDs). It is generally assumed that preventative maintenance of some NAVAIDs may require much longer intervals, or if deemed not a high enough priority, may not be restored to service at all. HAI members need to strongly consider what services they currently utilize which are provided by the FAA and which could be affected in the near-term.
The real effects of sequestration will begin to be felt on April 7. But our opportunity to be heard is much shorter - only two days. Review the lists. Review the bullet points above. Then act.
Time is short. If your airport is on the list, you need to get involved. Now.