Sequestration legislation is now looming directly overhead for many small airfields around the nation. The NBAA reported this week that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is preparing to “finalize a plan for closing nearly 170 air traffic control towers and other facilities.” NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen wrote the FAA share the business aviation community’s concerns with the plan, and offer possible solutions.
The impact of closing so many towers would eliminate numerous jobs. The Denver Post reported, “All of the threatened airports are part of the FAA's Contract Tower Program, or FCT, which provides funds to hire private contractors.” The potential safety risk is also a concern. “Without the help of controllers,” wrote Jason Keyser for the Associated Press,. “Risk ‘goes up exponentially,’ said Mark Hanna, director of the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, Ill., which could see its tower close.”
An amendment proposed by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) would halt the plan to close the air towers and other facilities. Noting the importance of commercial aviation safety and strength of employers in the industry, Sen. Moran’s amendment also proposed clear fiscal planning to avoid the brunt of sequestration cuts.
“Using savings from unobligated FAA research and capital funds provided in prior congressional appropriations bills,” the NBAA reported. “The facilities targeted for closure can remain open.” Moran’s resolution would continue funding for all federal agencies through the end of the government’s fiscal year, in the absence of congressional passage of specific appropriations bills.
Once again President & Chief Executive Officer of the Aerospace Industries Association Marion Blakey’s words ring true, “Sequestration is the easy way out, not the smart way forward.” Back in August of last year, I wrote about Blakey’s lecture on sequestration at the City Club of Cleveland. Now in March, we’re still dealing with the same type of legislation that threatens our industry and aviation infrastructure.
The FAA’s final decision on the tower closures is expected on March 18.
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