planning to hit the skies this spring and summer should expect some delays.
April, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which oversees air travel in
the US, plans to close 149 air
traffic control towers across the country.
government budget cuts, known as sequestration, went into effect on 1 March
after Congress failed to agree on voluntary spending cuts to reduce the
country’s mounting debt. The $85 billion reduction will gradually affect many
of the government’s operations, including education, defence, medical care and national
course, air travel. The air traffic control closures are part of the FAA’s
effort to cut $627 million from its $16 billion budget by the end of the fiscal
year on 30 September 2013.
will hit air traffic control towers at small and mid-sized airports, reports
Bloomberg News. For the least disruption possible, the FAA has targeted airports
with the smallest amount of commercial flights, namely those with fewer than
10,000 arrivals and departures. Among the airports set to lose operations in
their towers are Arizona’s Phoenix
Goodyear Airport, New York’s Ithaca
Tompkins Airport, California’s Sacramento
Executive Airport, Missouri’s St
Louis Regional Airport and Kansas’ Philip Billard Municipal Airport.
(See the full list of affected
airports will continue to operate on a normal schedule, relying instead on information
from the control towers of nearby airports. Pilots flying in and out of
affected airports will radio one another to coordinate landings and takeoffs.
closures are coinciding with furloughs for air traffic controllers at other,
larger airports as well. Due to the budget cuts, many air traffic controllers around
the country will start working four-day weeks this spring. Taken together, this
could overburden towers still in service – and potentially lead to major delays
FAA insists the closures will not impact safety because pilots can rely on
other means to coordinate takeoffs and landings, some in the air traffic
control community believe the move will remove an important layer of safety
from air travel and overwork the remaining towers.
towers have long been an integral part of the FAA's system of managing the
nation's complex airspace, and the decision to shutter these critical
air-traffic control facilities on such an unprecedented and wide-scale basis raises
serious concerns about safety – both at the local level and throughout the
aviation system,” said Spencer Dickerson, executive director of the US Contract Tower Association, in a
22 March statement.