Sen. Blumenthal was at Brainard Airport in Hartford Monday to announce an amendment he co-sponsored that would spare six state airports from potentially having to shut down air traffic control towers as a result of sequester cuts.
The FAA, facing a 5 percent across the board cut, has proposed closing 173 FAA Contract Towers on April 7, a 75 percent reduction from that program. Towers at Sikorsky Memorial, Danbury Municipal, Groton-New London, Hartford-Brainard, Tweed-New Haven, and Waterbury-Oxford are among those slated to close.
“The ripple effects of these closures is tremendous and it matters to our states as well as the other states involved,” said Blumenthal, who joined airport representatives to discuss the importance of keeping the program running.
The amendment to the Senate’s continuing resolution bill would restore $50 million in funding to keep the contract tower program running. Senators say that program is disporportionately targeted as other agency programs face 5 percent cuts.
“If the ground and the field were level from the beginning, we wouldn’t need this amendment,” said Blumenthal.
Brainard Air Traffic Manager and flight instructor Terry Keller Jr. compared closures to traffic light outages during a storm, which he described as “certainly less efficient and…a higher risk for all the drivers.” He said that “at an airport where there’s not a control tower where there used to be there’s going to be a higher level of risk for a reduced level of services.”
Danbury Airport Manager Paul Estefan mentioned how difficult it was to restore services after President Reagan fired thousands of air traffic controllers in 1981.
‘That took a lot of work then it’s going to take a lot of work now,” said Estefan. “They haven’t said how they’re going to bring us back, if at all.”