U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Friday of massive delays in airline flights and the closing of 100 smaller air traffic control towers throughout the U.S. as part of automatic spending cuts (sequestration) that are scheduled to begin March 1st. The airport tower closures would take effect one month later on April 1st.
Aerlex Law Group President Stephen Hofer said “these closures will have a crippling effect, not only on the private aviation industry, but our entire U.S. economy, our still fragile jobs recovery and our ability to deliver adequate health and safety services across the country.”
According to Secretary LaHood, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be required to cut $600 million from its budget, causing small airport closures, furloughing of air traffic controllers and subsequent delays in flights and cancellations that will impact the entire air transportation industry. Speaking at the White House briefing room, LaHood said that “these are harmful cuts with real-world consequences that will cost jobs and hurt the economy.” He also stated that discussions were underway with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to eliminate midnight shift duty at 60 airports across the country. The Secretary also noted that “Travelers should expect delays of up to 90 minutes at peak airports during sequester, starting on April 1. It’s going to be very painful for the flying public.”
After reviewing the list of the 200 smaller airports whose air traffic control towers may be closed, Stephen Hofer noted that a substantial number will directly affect clients in California (including Santa Monica, Camarillo and Palmdale) as well as in Texas, Florida, New York and several other states with large private aviation operations. He further noted that medical and emergency operations that utilize these smaller airports will also be severely compromised. Decisions regarding which air traffic control towers will be closed will come out of meetings that the FAA will conduct with air traffic controllers and airlines during the month of March.
With only a week before the sequestration takes effect, LaHood, a former Republican member of Congress, urged lawmakers to approve a compromise in lieu of the $85 billion in spending cuts that are scheduled to hit every agency March 1.