DUPAGE, Ill. — A federal plan to impose across-the-board spending cuts by closing 149 active control towers nationwide will compromise air safety and “should not stand,” according to Craig Fuller, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).
“The White House does not understand the consequences of these actions, or they do and they simply do not care,” Fuller said. “Either way, this approach is dangerous and should not stand.”
Speaking to a group of more than 100 pilots at an AOPA pilot town hall at DuPage Airport outside of Chicago, Fuller said that FAA cuts directed by the White House will have a serious impact on general aviation in the United States.
“We are on the eve of one of the most unfortunate and unnecessary actions ever taken by the Federal Aviation Administration,” Fuller said. “The FAA should use the flexibility it has to avoid a deep, across-the-country closure of air traffic control towers based on a flawed formula that shuts down towers because they serve general aviation.”
During his talk on March 21, Fuller put the blame for the FAA’s cuts squarely on the White House, which, with Congress, on March 1 imposed a series of sequestration spending cuts across federal agencies.
On Friday, March 22, the FAA announced it will close 147 towers starting April 7.
DuPage Airport provided an apt backdrop for Fuller’s meeting with area pilots. Its tower is among those that may be closed due to sequestration despite the fact that DuPage is home to about 250 piston, turbine and rotor aircraft, and in 2012 supported 80,000 operations a year — approximately 220 takeoffs and landings each day. DuPage’s tower is staffed by FAA controllers, not contract controllers, so it was not included in the first round of closures.
Fuller noted that a proposal by Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran to leave control towers open by moving funds from non-essential accounts to FAA operations was opposed by the White House and not included in a Senate spending bill passed this week.
“This is nothing short of a policy assault by White House officials who stood in the way this week of a bipartisan solution, keeping the good work of Senator Moran from even coming to a vote….all for the purpose of imposing a degree of pain through budget cuts.”