Tompkins County has filed its petition asking a federal appeals court to review the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to stop paying for air traffic controllers at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport.
The petition filed this week in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit names the five people who work at the tower as parties to the legal action, as well as the county itself.
The controllers work for Midwest Air Traffic Control Service. The FAA announced March 5 that it would discontinue the program in which it pays for contractors to run control towers at certain airports around the country.
It was one of the measures the FAA is taking to comply with spending reductions under the budget sequestration process caused when Congress and President Barack Obama did not reach agreement on spending.
The county’s suit is likely to be consolidated with those brought by other airports around the country since the issues are so similar, county attorney Jonathan Wood predicted.
The 149 affected airports are mostly in small cities. Ithaca’s is the only New York airport with scheduled commercial airline service that was affected.
Unless the decision is rescinded, each of the controllers is likely out of a job.
Officials insist flying will remain safe, as pilots will be in contact with controllers at other airports and with one another on a shared radiofrequency when near the airport.
Pilots, including those on commercial airlines, are trained and experienced at taking off and landing without local air traffic controllers. They do this regularly already, as the Ithaca airport’s tower is unstaffed from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. daily.
The agency announced Friday that it is delaying the closures until June 15 but gave not indication it was reconsidering the move.