New York Post:
The Federal Aviation Administration says it will close 149 air traffic control towers at small airports around the country because of federal budget cuts.
The agency announced the decision Friday, a month after it released a preliminary list of facilities that could be closed.
All of the affected airports will remain open. Pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency with no help from ground controllers. That’s something they are trained to do, but airport directors have raised concerns about the potential impact on safety.
In an accompanying statement, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says the agency will take steps to ensure safe operations at the affected airports.
I’m not a pilot but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. Here’s what DrewM at Ace of Spades HQ had to say the other day:
At an airport like this (as opposed to ones in NYC, LA, ATL or even midsized ones like San Jose, Orlando, or Nashville), there’s very little traffic to sequence and pilots have plenty of tools to work safely in and around the airport.
People who aren’t pilots tend to have an overinflated sense of what air traffic controllers do. At an airport like the on in the story, the answer is not that much. They don’t have radar, they don’t have the ability to provide what are called “separation services” (which is what it sounds like…the ability to tell planes where to go to keep them from hitting each other).
Notice no actual pilots were interviewed in this story. My guess is most of them would just shrug if asked what closing this tower will mean to them. Sure, it’s nice to have an extra set of eyes (and that’s all a tower controller here really is*, though you can’t assume they are ever actually watching) but beyond that, it’s a non-event.
There’s nothing inherently unsafe about an airport with this level of traffic not having a control tower (again, right now 1/2 the flights operate under these conditions already).
Keep stories like this in mind as you see more and more about how devastating the sequester will be. Reporters often have no clue what they are writing about, they are just pushing a storyline. They hope the accumulation of a million little cuts (and inflating their impacts) will force the GOP to cave.
There are lots of small airports around the country. There are probably thousands of private landing strips. Then there are all those seaplanes that are designed to land on small bodies of water.
The fact is that every day there are planes taking off and landing without the aid of air traffic controllers. This sequestration move is really no big deal.
But Obama doesn’t want you to know that.