Congressional leaders express safety concerns about tower closings

Washington, D.C. – Leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation sent a bipartisan letter today to the head of the Department of Transportation and the FAA expressing disappointment with the FAA’s “unprecedented decision” to close 149 air traffic control contract towers to meet the sequester’s budget reduction requirements.

The elected officials who signed the letter express their concerns that the FAA has yet to address the impact the agency’s decision to close towers may have on aviation system safety or efficiency.

The letter was sent by House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.); the Transportation Committee’s Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall, II (D-WV); House Subcommittee on Aviation Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ); Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV); the Commerce Committee’s Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD); and Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Chairman Maria E. Cantwell (D-Wash.).

Shuster, Rahall, and LoBiondo issued the following statement:

“Right now we have more questions than answers, and we remain concerned about the safety of the aviation system and the general public. We still don’t know what impacts closing these air traffic control towers will have, and to ensure that safety remains the top priority, the agency needs to focus intently on finding savings in other areas of its budget.”

Click here to read the full letter.

Comments

  1. The FAA should pass the Medical Exemption Petition. This would help to save GA and encourage existing pilots to get back into flying and those perspective pilots to start flight training. The medical certificate process would speed up and much less money would be spent by pilots seeking special issuances. OKC would save money also. It would be a win-win for everyone! It’s time to get it done…

  2. Chad Bessenger says:

    I agree Henry, not only could closing these towers be dangerous, but it will also cause people to lose their jobs. They should be promoting safety as well as job growth for the General Aviation industry.

    • ManyDecadeGA says:

      Your safety assertions are simply wrong. Where are your facts and data? Many of these towers should have never been established in the first place, and were politically established, with no real need demonstrated. If you want them, that is OK, but you need to agree to pay for them. Don’t expect the general taxpayers to foot the bill, or ask the rest of aviation to pay for them, particularly when they neither need them nor want them. In fact small volume towers in general are already becoming obsolete dinosaurs, with those traffic separation functions eventually to be handled in better and less expensive ways. Even just watch a major airport (e.g., SEATAC) tower function when it is way up in the fog, and can’t see a thing, while the airport otherwise functions normally below the fog. Tower’s days at low volume airports, or at “off hours” are numbered. If you want them at those sparse locations, or at those night hours, you and AOPA and LoBiondo in New jersey and his colleagues can pay for them. But don’t ask us to continue to subsidize an unnecessary dinosaur.

      • Henry Kelly says:

        It is hard to produce accident and fatality data until they unfortunately happen. To make believe that closing towers will have no impact is absurd. What most pilots are asking for is a review by each airfield to determine impact especially at mixed aircraft type fields and heavy use airspace areas. Do all towers need to stay open, no..Should hours be cut at other perhaps. As taxpayers we pay for foreign aid to countries that defy us every day. So why not pay for something that creates jobs and promotes transportation, tourism and travel and our economy here within our own country? As to all of these coming aids to traffic, they are still years away in most areas and most planes are not equiped with the expensive avionics. No one wants needless expense put on anyone, but taking an ax to the control tower system is reckless.

        • ManyDecadeGA says:

          If your concern is seriously about GA accident and fatality exposure, then addressing simple things like reducing the ASEL engine failure rate, or addressing risky night ASEL IFR flying, or addressing getting overly exposed to icing or TRW flying, with potential electrical or vacuum system failure (in light GA aircraft), or foulups due to the the awful present human interfaces with typical poorly designed GA GPS avionics should be at the very top of the hit list. Instead, for GA IFR flying, timely introduction of RNP and GLS, with phaseout of obsolete NPAs, dive and drive, WAAS, and airspace wasting LPV, should be at the top of the list to reduce GA IFR IMC accident rates.

          With large numbers of CTAF airports operating safely globally for decades, forcing more waste of scarce aviation resources on retaining unnecessary pork laden low volume towers actually REDUCES overall safety, not increases it. We’re way beyond the point where Archie League was once needed or useful.

          Closing some wastful control towers isn’t the primary issue GA needs to be concerned about at this point, with our outdated overly expensive ATS facilities, and with seriously flawed FAA policies. The present true fully allocated wasteful FAA induced ATS cost per flight hour, or per operation, for GA, would ground us all if the data were fully known, and widely published.

          • Henry Kelly says:

            I am in favor of any agenda or effort to improve safety, but I don’t think it is an either/or situation. I also do not believe that closing all of these towers will cause or enable or fund the efforts that you mention. Frankly I think most pilots would assume that FAA is already working these issues. If it is not we should address or generate pressure to find out why and fix that bloated management bureaucracy and its confused priorities. Again are there some towers that are unnecessary, especially since the pilot population has dropped 25%. Yes, and we should find out why that statistic has happened and try to reverse that death spiral trend…But if all of these towers are closed, once this infrastructure is removed, I think it is pretty clear that it will be lost forever no matter if there is an uptake in flight operations in a hopefully eventually improved economy or not. These towers were built over decades to handle traffic, either current or expected. If Europe is any gauge, general aviation for the average American will be doomed if these gutting policies here continue. I also wish the vigor and energy to try to condone or justify the tower closings by individuals such as yourself was instead redirected to insisting on safety and accountability, including toward some of the valid concerns that you mention. Meanwhile as we debate over a few thousand controllers jobs and 147 towers, the Government is wasting millions and billions on programs and pork and foreign aid, that benefits no one except lobbyists, corrupt individuals, corporations, and governments. Instead of attacking those programs and excesses, our government goes instead after towers and controllers with a methodical vengence. Furlough has hit the airlines now.. That is sure going to help our struggling economy. Making it harder for business and vacation travelers and negatively impact tourism across the board throughout the country. The tower expenditures are a miniscule drop in the bucket for the budget and deficit. It is even more of a misguided joke given the revenues and taxes that are now in jeopardy that air travel creates, in the hotel, restaurant, airline, maintenance and other industries. In my case towers have been of definite value to my flying experience. Promoting and ensuring general aviation and aviation safety given its attendant benefits economically as well as to safer flying itself should be supported.

  3. Henry Kelly says:

    Great letter and thanks to the Congressmen and women!!…After building up a safe and robust infrastructure over decades, suddenly it is unnecessary? Instead of promoting General Aviation the FAA deliberately tries to destroy it. Costs are high enough already and they want to make it less attractive and more of a challenge to fly? Trim the bureaucracy instead of the safety infrastructure. Look at heavily used mixed traffic airspace and corridors. Cancel tower closures in areas that need the services. In addition to safety, the FAA should be promoting aviation in the United States not trying to cripple it. Our pilot population is already shrinking every year as it is. The FAA should be working to reverse that trend, not trying to kill off GA.

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