April 3, 2013
By Lauren Collins
(NECN: Lauren Collins, Nashua, N.H.) – The tarmac is clear on a blustery Wednesday afternoon but make no mistake: Nashua is the busiest general aviation airfield in New Hampshire, with 60,000 flights last year and a brand new runway.
“We just cut the ribbon for that six months ago,” says Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau. “This has always been a gem in Nashua that’s always been very quiet. Not everybody knows all the benefits.”
The tower here is set to close in just four days.
Congresswoman Annie Kuster met with the Nashua Airport Authority and local business leaders Wednesday to try and navigate around the closure. The FAA plans to shutter 149 of its contracted towers over the next month as a result of sequestration.
“Congress made this decision to cut everything across the board. And you wouldn’t do that in your own business and we shouldn’t be doing it as a government,” says Rep. Kuster (D-NH02).
The FAA told Nashua Airport on Tuesday that it can keep the tower open if it can find a way fund operations itself. The Airport Authority hopes to announce a plan to keep the tower staffed in the short term, but there’s no money to permanently afford the $1,000 a day it costs to run.
“We need to do have an immediate plan,” says Airport Manager Royce Rankin. “What we’re gonna do to make sure this tower doesn’t close because I think the understanding is if it closes it’ll be a lot harder to reopen down the road.”
Only about 500 of the more than 20,000 airports in the U.S. have air traffic controllers. The airport will stay open regardless of the tower’s fate, but pilots will be on their own to navigate an airspace that overlaps with Boston and Manchester.
“I think it’s clearly an issue of safety that we’re all concerned about,” says Rep. Kuster.
If nothing is done now to keep the tower open, the FAA will start disconnecting and removing its equipment in 90 days.