Lawmakers question choice to close towers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawmakers are not happy with the FAA’s decision to close 149 contract air traffic control towers.

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) wrote Friday to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, expressing concerns about the potential impact on aviation safety due to the administration’s choice to close 149 contract towers around the country.

Specifically, Thune and Shuster requested information regarding the safety analysis done to ensure closing each tower, as well as so many towers at the same time, does not compromise safety. They also want a “detailed justification and explanation for how the FAA determined each contract tower would be closed.”

Meanwhile, Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ), chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, said he was “deeply disappointed” in the FAA’s decision to close the towers “despite serious concerns from Congress, the aviation industry, local communities and the flying public.”

“I believe FAA has the necessary flexibility to find $50 million in savings from these tower closures elsewhere within their $9.7 billion Operations account,” he said. “Given the FAA’s first and most important mission is to ensure aviation safety, it is my expectation that a thorough safety risk assessment has been conducted for each and every proposed tower closures with input considered from airport personnel, the airlines, FAA staff, and other aviation operators. My committee has requested and is awaiting all information the FAA relied upon in making this decision. It is my concern that the Obama Administration’s decision to close these towers is merely to fit their public relations narrative about sequestration rather than sound policy and management practices.”


  1. C. David Buchanan says

    As pilots we are well trained to strategically identify risks, resulting in plans that provide a margin of safety. With practiced precision, we execute each approach tactically preserving our margins, never allowing the aircraft to “get ahead” of us. The freedom to conduct flight activities we enjoy, and from which many of us prosper, has socio-economic risks we should identify, plan for, and approach with the care, control, and precision of flight.

    We have the right and responsibility to question the processes which results in a decision to reduce hours and/or close specific Air Traffic Control Towers. We have the right to recommend, even insist on changes to these decisions where one is flawed.

    As General Aviation pilots we know, limiting these services will result in inconveniences. However, we also know that absent these entitlements, by exercising diligence in planning for and execution of flights in and around the affected areas, our training and our skills are fully capable of maintaining and even improving the current level of safety.

    I beg, we approach our complaints in these matters carefully. Else these arguments may falsely pre-arm our contrarians. Arguments that purport a dependence on government assistance to achieve safe flight operations may be turned back on us. Such an occurrence could prove detrimental to the freedom we currently enjoy.

    • says

      Exactly. Very well said. I think we, the aviation community and specifically GA, are missing a real opportunity in this. Pilots are trained for CTAF, and most GA pilots fly in/out of non-towered airports all the time…and prefer it. Many of these small towered airports serving airlines were part-time towers anyway, meaning that even those airline pilots are familiar with the process.

      I see this as a great opportunity for GA to showcase its safety, independent of government systems. It’s a way to encourage more people to fly (and learn to fly) without pressures typically associated with towers. Imagine if our industry leaders responded by saying, “We commend the FAA for recognizing how safe general aviation is and its ability to independently operate in airspace shared by commercial operations.”

  2. Russell Craig says

    More money can be saved in other ways. Start with foreign Aid. Borrow money to give to foreign Aid????

  3. Bryan says

    This is about defending the privatization of government infrastructure, a key belief of the GOP. It has nothing to do with aviation safety.

    These same lawmakers would defund the FAA completely, if they could.

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