With the government budget sequestration, many departments in our government have been forced to make budget cutbacks and adjustments (and not before time, if you ask me – governmental spending has been out of control for years).
As a private pilot, I find one department’s response to be particularly disturbing. As soon as sequestration looked like it was probably going to happen, the FAA released a petulant sounding 5-yr-old statement staying that it intended to close most of the contract-based control towers at airports in the USA. Really? Is that the best they could come up with for things to trim with a budget reduction?
Now that sequestration has happened, the FAA is standing behind this bizarre and irresponsible approach to budget cutting. They are planning to close 149 active control towers nationwide (out of 238 total)! According to Craig Fuller, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) “The White House does not understand the consequences of these actions, or they do and they simply do not care,” Fuller said. “Either way, this approach is dangerous and should not stand.” Speaking to a group of more than 100 pilots at an AOPA town hall meeting at DuPage Airport outside of Chicago, he goes on to say “We are on the eve of one of the most unfortunate and unnecessary actions ever taken by the Federal Aviation Administration,” Fuller said. “The FAA should use the flexibility it has to avoid a deep, across-the-country closure of air traffic control towers based on a flawed formula that shuts down towers because they serve general aviation.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Fuller. The FAA is behaving completely irresponsibly in this matter. There are other things for them to trim other than control towers which are directly responsible for traffic safety into and out of our airports.
This is a picture of the brand-new control tower at Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland. It was opened last May with $5.3 million in federal government funds. Now, this is just one of the towers on the chopping block by the FAA. This seems the height of absurdity to me.
What does the FAA say about all this?
The FAA says it is facing an untenable situation. By congressional mandate, it must cut nearly $600 million from its nearly $48 billion budget this fiscal year. Because the majority of its 47,000 employees are air traffic controllers, it is impossible to cut its budget without affecting controllers, the agency says.
The FAA is furloughing employees, eliminating midnight shifts at some control towers and reducing maintenance on non-critical facilities. In an effort to affect the fewest travelers, the FAA said it is targeting lower-volume airports — those that have fewer than 150,000 operations a year (a takes off or landing is an operation) and fewer than 10,000 commercial operations.
The 238 towers fall under those thresholds, including 49 FAA-staffed towers and 189 contractor-staffed towers. The FAA cuts to be announced Friday focus solely on the contract towers.
This is not surprising – contract towers have never been well liked by the FAA and they aren’t considered “part of the family” by the agency. Typically contract towers are less expensive and more efficient than FAA staffed towers (is that much of a surprise?)
The FAA claims that these tower closures will not impact safety. ROFL! Oh, there will be an impact, but most likely it will be the crunching of metal as two planes collide, causing loss of life and property. The FAA plans to reduce flight volumes to help, which means that flights to major cities such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours. This will of course have a ripple effect across the country. If you delay one airport, then you delay the airport where the flight originates also.
It is time for the news media to get this into the public eye. It makes no sense at all, and something dire is going to have to happen before these buffoons are exposed. This does not have to happen! We cannot allow such irresponsible actions on the part of the FAA.