Apparently we do need this tower

The “Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013” (H.R. 1765) was introduced on Friday, April 26, by Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa). It was signed by President Obama on Wednesday, May 1.

You see, Congress and the President can get things done…when they want to.

The full title of the bill is “To provide the Secretary of Transportation with the flexibility to transfer certain funds to prevent reduced operations and staffing of the Federal Aviation Administration, and for other purposes.”

The bill’s purpose: To stop airline flight delays and stop contract tower closures.

Those poor Congressmen, looking at long flight delays, just as they were to head home for their spring recess. These delays impacted not just the general public…but, gulp, them.

So where is the money coming from? The FAA’s Airport Improvement Program. So we are effectively dipping into savings to cover operations, (an act any banker worth their salt will advise against doing.) Hopefully those borrowed funds will be replenished.

Thankfully, and with all due sarcasm, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood must “notify the House and Senate appropriation committee prior” to any transfer of funds from savings to checking. Phew… glad for that check and balance.

Of interest, to me at least, are a few comments from the alphabet groups…

AOPA President Craig Fuller said, “The entire aviation community has worked diligently for this outcome, and we hope that any future spending cuts necessitated by sequestration will be made only after a comprehensive and thoughtful evaluation of their impact on system users.”

NBAA President Ed Bolen noted, “Without the threat of imminent closure, DOT and the FAA will now have the additional time necessary to develop a thorough and informed plan to manage the agency’s priorities under mandatory budget sequestration.”

“Additional time… to plan to manage the agency’s priorities,” strikes me as the right tone. But, Oct. 1, 2013 (the start of the new fiscal year) is but four-and-one-half short months away, so there isn’t a lot of time.

Increased financial flexibility is all well and good, I suppose, but hard decisions, based on thorough analysis and critical thought still have to be made.

With roughly 500 towers around the country, I’d hazard a guess that, even after “a comprehensive and thoughtful evaluation of their impact on system users,” at least one tower should be closed. Cuts, like outlays, have an impact on system users, and we simply aren’t, and shouldn’t, be in a position to be all things for all people.

In April, I asked, “Do we need this control tower?” Congress and the President have answered. Apparently the answer is yes… through Sept. 30.

This isn’t over. Not by a long shot.

Comments

  1. Great AIP funds will be used for everything but airport repair/improvements now. We can all thank the AOPA and other alphabet groups for selling us out to advance their own bureaucratic agendas. More user fees in the form of higher fuel tax and landing fees should be expected now that the theory has been proven that the groups will cheer such actions.

    • Henry Kelly says:

      Hey Bensclair, The AOPA did not ask or suggest that airport repair and improvement funds be raided to keep the towers open. Where did you get that distorted idea? Why are you blaming AOPA? Like most of the rest of the pilot community they fought against the tower closures as being poorly thought through and bad for safety and GA. There was no sell out, there was a fight to protect the towers and the infrastructire that we use. Also, I sure do not hear anyone cheering for higher fuel taxes and landing fees either. Who are you listening to? Although a higher fuel tax option sure beats User Fees of 100 bucks a flight if you use ATC.

  2. Tim Wennberg says:

    Gentlemen,
    The former Castle Air Force base in California plays host to a contract tower for 450K per year. It has a flight school that is 99.9% of the tower business. If an American citizen goes to the school and says he would like to learn to fly, he will be told to go someplace else. They only train students from Vietnam and China on contracts with their governments. Give the money to the veterans hospital and close the damn tower.

    Brother of a Vietnam veteran.

  3. Amazing FAA towers have an average of 16 controllers and cost about 2.5 Mil a year to operate. Contract towers have an average of 8 controllers and cost about ½ mil a year to operate, maybe we should fire all of the FAA controllers and contract out the towers.

    I have flown in the system and into O’Hare with an air carrier and I well tell you that any time the controller want to slow down the airport they can and do. The controllers union was just playing games with us to slow down to show the public that they are needed oh so bad that they can get any thing they want at the next contract time.

  4. They are doing just what the government did to Social Security and the same result will happen. They have now found a funding source that they can tap into and we will NOT have money left over to repair and improve airports that are just used by GA. The money will be funneled to the Class B airports to support commercial aviation. This was a very bad call letting them raid the savings accounts. Good By GA as we knew it.

    • A trust fund? A lockbox. Can anyone believe that this lying government keeps a trust fund? To use on the purpose it was intended?. if you do , I have some swamp land in New Orleans to sell you.

      • The only way to solve our financial issues is to start over – and the first to go should be Congress! We can do that every election by voting in the newest candidates and letting them know that if they don’t do what WE want, they will be fired when the next election comes along.

  5. Sarah Ashmore says:

    Raiding the AIP Trust Fund is a bad precedent. Now they will be tempted to use that funding source for all sorts of needs and then increase the fuel tax to keep it full. Sounds like they found a way through the back door to stick it to General Aviation and at the same time flog us for fighting their $100/flight tax on the rich and powerful biz jet owners (their vew, not mine). How many of the towers to be saved were really needed (or had any impact on flight delays) and how many were there just to stroke the egos of local, state and national polititions ?

  6. so they had the money all along but were willing for jobs to be lost,towers to be closed, safety to be compromised. Anything but dip into the taxpayers money for use by the tax payer. Listen to them, they act like it their money in a savings account! This government is out of control.

  7. Jason C says:

    unclelar – The terminal building at Cleveland, TN was not funded with FAA dollars.

  8. Dale Rust says:

    Well folks, if the FAA would get off their “runway safety area binge”, millions .. and millions could be reshuffled for other useful things. … But ever since an airliner went off the end of the snowy, icy runway at Midway a few years ago, the knee-jerk FAA decided it should put safety areas at airports all over the continent. Never mind that the runways at Midway are mostly too short anyway for some types of aircraft flown into there … in snowy, icy, winters … since the aircraft went through a fence and onto a roadway and killed someone, something HAD to be done. A good chunk of the AIP funds are now being spent on runway ends that were doing just fine.

    And of course we all bow to the sacred TSA’s demands … take Springfield, IL for example. Millions were spent relocating the entrance road to the terminal .. a road that had been there since the airport’s inception .. but some heavy thinker decided the roadway was too close to the .. now almost empty Air National Guard building and a terrorist might possibly blow it up. The F-16′s that once were there are long gone.

    And so it goes.

  9. unclelar says:

    As most of us know all of this is a political move to scare the public and to continue with tax and spend. This was only a cut in the increase and most any organization can find fat to cut. Lord knows a heck of a lot of American families have had to do with less overall, not less than what they want as an increase. The great majority of pilots know that there are places where towers are totally unnecessary. Hilton Head with 87 airplanes based there? There is also room to cut in the Airport Improvement Program or whatever source money is coming from to fund our airports. Anyone been to the new airport in Cleveland, Tennessee? The FBO is quite large with beautiful oak and leather furniture, fireplace in lobby, even oak columns around the elevator. This really cool new airport is very close to Chattanooga with it’s own underused airport. Only problem is that it’s way more than what was needed with the relatively small number of aircraft at the old Cleveland airport. Maybe the FAA needs to take a second look at funding projects like this before they start talking about furloughs and tower closings. I love the fact that Cleveland can have a new airport but this is way too extravagant. Must be fun spending other peoples money. All of this points to management both in Congress and federal agencies who love to spend our money.

  10. Fred Boyns says:

    I thought this was an Airport Improvement Trust Fund.
    And they wonder why we don’t trust them.

  11. Henry Kelly says:

    Let us all remember that “Sequester” which caused all of this in the first place was a quick trick band-aid that was never suppossed to go into effect!..It was to buy time for serious budget and deficit work that would see what could be reasonably pulled from budgets to reduce our debt. Our US government, Senate, Representatives and President, instead went to total gridlock mode, threw up their hands, and allowed the train to run into the wall….Instead of reform and work to examine the deficit, we got airport tower closings and things like 1/3 of our Air Force being grounded, and a carrier stuck in port with no funds to sail her. Plus things like Head Start are attacked…Wrong moves, not progress. I also have to comment that it worries me that there are a number of pilots that post comments that show that they really dislike having towers. They can’t see why they are needed..Why is that? They would rather have no towers? Aviation anarchy? Towers were built and opened to deal with traffic related concerns, like mixed use, multiple runway options, corridor traffic, but especially safety. I would like to know where these folks who don’t want towers fly…Instead of attacking towers, we and FAA should be looking at why activity and pilot certifications have fallen like a stone. It is a self fulfilling prophecy that if you have no flights you need no towers..Towers improve the flow and add safety to the use of airplanes. That is not a new concept. Are some towers unnecessary, no doubt yes and could close. Each tower’s usage should be examined in detail. But why would an existing tower now be marked to close? What has changed so that traditional or anticipated traffic has not materialized, or has fallen off…. The amount of money used to keep towers open is a miniscule drop in the bucket compared to the waste in the US budget and the deficit. Again we put emphasis on and waste time on the wrong things instead of the real big issues. GA pilots better get with the program to promote and grow aviation, and air safety, in the USA, instead of focusing on helping to find reasons to eliminate infrastructure and services that make flying more attractive and safer. There are plenty of untowered airfields already for those who would rather not use one..

  12. It’s sad, and irritating, that Washington would play politics with a frail GA. What it proves though, is that they aren’t above much in their quest for power. This strategy has become “the norm” for politicians. Scare the public so they will vote for what they want – usually a tax increase. I have watched it here in California for years. As long as the public sits idly by instead of demanding that Washington do its job without finger pointing, it will continue. Are there some towers which will probably close? I would say yes, I have no doubt. I believe that will be a by-product of this political mess. It needs to be accomplished by due diligence instead of in a retaliatory effort as this administration has done. What we are witnessing is what AOPA’s Craig Fuller stated in a recent talk he gave. He said that “he has never seen Washington in this much dysfunction in all his years there”. Maybe sadder yet, is that we the people placed these individuals in office.

  13. My latest Conspiracy Theory:
    “Mr President, since Congress won’t approve our proposed $100 per flight fee, I’ve discovered another way to bend them to our will.”
    “Tell me more.”
    “We disrupt the air traffic control system. That will cut into their at-home fund raising.”
    “Brilliant, I always admire Chicago-style politiking”
    “It gets better”
    “Tell me how”
    “When they find out there’s a pile of money in the Airport Improvement Fund, they will create a way to get at that money to avert the ‘emergency’.”
    “That appears as if everybody wins-Congress gets what the want, the people, both Democrats and the others, will be glad their leaders have restored order, and we get our hands on the money”
    “What happens when one of our nation’s airports need a new runway, or a bigger terminal building?”
    “We will be out of office by then, and it’s about time for the voters to elect someone from the other party, so it will another ready made blame game”

  14. Jason C says:

    This raid of AIP will affect General Aviation the most. AOPA fell short of protecting General Aviation on this one. The intent of AIP is to maintain and build the infrastructure. With failed infrastructure, then the towers at General Aviation airports will really not be needed……

  15. Steve Mann says:

    “So where is the money coming from? The FAA’s Airport Improvement Program. So we are effectively dipping into savings to cover operations, (an act any banker worth their salt will advise against doing.) Hopefully those borrowed funds will be replenished.”

    Replenished?? Whom do you think you are kidding. This raid on the AIP will only give the Obama White House yet another excuse to add user fees.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  16. Steve R says:

    As I was saying, they need to be proactive rather than reactive.

  17. Steve R says:

    Ben, many of us wondered why more towers were not on the closure list. Only 2 in my state were on the list and I don’t think any significant delays would have been caused by them. Most of the others to remain open did not have 3rd shifts and no significant airline traffic. People in the public at large should have been educated properly by aviation groups about the number of airports served by airlines and how many do not have towers. I think that the AOPA and other good aviations did as much as any politition to spread fears and panic. Those groups need to educate the flying public on the real facts and issues, and bring quality solution ideas out
    rather than sounding like other “Henny Pennys” and uninformed complainers. The public is never going to understand all of the positive aviation contributions facts vs. fiction unless the large organizations in aviation start ei.g proactive

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