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DOT Keeps Regional Control Towers Open through September

Excellent news for FBOs and executive airports: 149 federal air traffic control towers that were scheduled to be closed due to the federal budget sequester will remain open — at least until September.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was set to begin closing 149 federal contract air traffic control towers at small- and medium-size regional airports in June, but on May 10, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary, Ray LaHood, announced that the sequester budget cuts would be frozen, but only until September.

Danbury Municipal Airport’s (DXR) air traffic control tower is one of the 149 that were slated to close as part of the federal sequestration spending cuts, but will remain open.

Per the federal budget sequester, the FAA was planning to furlough air traffic controllers to cut its budget by 10 percent to meet the $253 million required by Congress this fiscal year.

Congress then stepped in and approved legislation allowing the FAA to reallocate existing funds within their budget to apply towards air traffic controllers and towers. Congress’ decision was likely due in part to the extensive delays and public backlash caused by the FAA’s air traffic control at major airports in May.

NATA

On May 10, NATA, the public policy group representing the interests of aviation businesses before Congress and the federal agencies, distributed a news release. NATA President and CEO, Thomas L. Hendricks, stated, "NATA is very pleased about this and believes it was the correct decision by the FAA. The contract tower program is one of the most cost effective and efficient safety programs under the FAA’s purview.”

Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) were both instrumental in pushing legislation through Congress to allow the FAA to use funds for the towers. Hendricks added, "Senator Moran’s leadership in particular was vital to getting this done and we thank him and the other 41 Senators who supported his tremendous work. Saving the contract tower program from extinction by using existing federal funds was accomplished by strong leaders in Congress and an impressive grass roots effort from across the country initiated by a coalition led by the U.S. Contract Tower Association, the National Air Transportation Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.”

Danbury legislators take action

Following the DOT’s announcement delaying any tower closings through September, Connecticut lawmakers have joined together in a bipartisan group to secure funding for the state’s small airport towers, including Danbury Airport’s tower.

On Monday May 13, legislators were joined by aviation officials from across Connecticut. Key concerns are that the furlough freeze is a temporary, short-term fix, and that closing air traffic control towers for any amount of time is akin to turning off a traffic light at a busy intersection.

Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury said, “I appreciate our state’s congressional delegation stepping up with Republicans and Democrats on behalf of Danbury Airport and so many airports across the country.” McLachlan continued, “These control towers maintain safety and order in the skies, and going without the Danbury Municipal Airport Tower would lead to a lack of traffic flow safety. Closing the Danbury tower would be like allowing an intersection with an out-of-service traffic light to go without a traffic director.”

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