Frankenquester: FAA to close 149 regional airport towers

Oh dear, what are we to do. That monstrosity of a sequester is going to close 149 towers at regional airports across the country.

This will rile up the public,won't it?

Not hardly.

The FAA had been expected to announce the closure of 189 low- or moderate-volume towers staffed by contractors. Before Friday's announcement, it said it would consider keeping a tower open if the airport convinces the agency it is in the "national interest" to do so.

A news release from the FAA quoted Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as saying, "We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions ... Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration."

By congressional mandate, the FAA must cut nearly $600 million from its nearly $48 billion budget this fiscal year. Because the majority of its 47,000 employees are air traffic controllers, it is impossible to cut its budget without affecting controllers, the agency said.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in the agency's news release that the agency "will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports."

Two Republican members of Congress -- Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure -- wrote to LaHood calling for "a detailed justification and explanation for how the FAA determined each contract tower would be closed."

"It is worth noting that, the specified towers in the FAA Contract Tower Program were all operational in 2009, when the FAA received less funding than it will under sequestration," the two said in their letter.

Their was no immediate response from LaHood or the FAA to the letter.

First of all, many of these regional airports exist for the convenience of private aircraft owners, flight schools, and small charter companies. They don't even rate FAA employees, but hire contractors paid for by FAA to man the towers.

Then there are many of these airports that should never have been built in the first place. The John Murtha Airport received tens of millions of dollars in earmarks from the faciility's namesake over the years just to keep 3 flights a day operating - not coincidentally, to and from Washington.

And note that the airports will remain open. Did they even need controllers in the first place?

A $48 billion budget and this is the kind of thing they are cutting? What a crock.

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