FAA is being forced to remove their controllers from towers

url“Who’s Gonna Tell Them if There’s a Cow on the Runway”

I worked for an airline in the 1960’s and 70’s in Los Angeles.  Several of our regular pilots had flown in WWII and were nearing retirement age.  When some of them learned to fly, the “runways” they took off and landed from were in farm fields.  Ground to air radio was all they had.  Sometimes when a pilot wanted to land, a person on the ground would tell them they would have to  redo their approach because there was a cow or other farm animal on the field.

I remember one day when I was working in “operations” for the airline, and  one of our pilots was landing a Boeing 727 on his final flight before retirement.  One of our supervisors picked up the microphone and told him that he would have to “go around, there’s a cow on the field”.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a tradition, and the men and women who worked in the tower were part of the routine.

I don’t know if it continues today, I doubt it with rising fuel costs and all, but there will be 149 municipal airports whose towers will no longer be manned.  Someone on the ground will have to inform pilots of field conditions.

Because of the automatic budget cuts formerly known as the “Sequester”, the FAA is being forced to remove their controllers from towers, some that were only completed last year.

The closures will begin on April 7th, and will continue over a 4 week period.

The decision “will have both short-term and long-term effects,” warned the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

“These towers serve other important functions — including law enforcement activity, medical transport flights, search and rescue missions, business and commerce and supporting flight schools across America,” the association said in a statement.

“Ultimately, the partisan posturing in Washington that led to sequestration is the reason for (Friday’s) decision and its destructive effects on aviation.”

The Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland may see its 5.3 million dollar tower become nothing more than a monument.  It opened last May thanks to stimulus money, and may be closing before this May.

One government program opened it, another will close it.

“It’s so much irony, it’s almost ridiculous and laughable,” said Mamie Ambrose, one of the controllers expected to lose her job. “I mean, we’re all so disgusted with it.”

At Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, Florida, a tower built to withstand 130 mph hurricane winds was dedicated in July. It was built with $1 million in stimulus money and $2.1 million in congressional earmarks.

In addition cuts to the FAA will affect some major airports.  With less tower personnel, delays will occur in peak periods of up to 90 minutes.  These delays will cause a ripple effect across the United States.

The FAA stresses the fact that safety will not be compromised.

Advocates for contract towers argue they are suffering a disproportionate amount of pain.

“The rest of the FAA’s budget is getting a 5% haircut; the contract towers are getting a 75% cut, because the FAA is cutting 189 of the 251 contract towers,” Spencer Dickerson of the U.S. Contract Tower Association told CNN.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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