From the Daytona
News Journal February 23, 2013. How will this affect air traffic at Ormond
Beach Airport if it happens? Who knows:
Local airport towers on FAA’s cut list
New Smyrna, Ormond could be affected by ‘sequester’
By MARK I. JOHNSON
Control towers at the New Smyrna Beach and Ormond Beach municipal airports are among more than 100 air traffic control facilities nationally slated for possible closure as part of the across-the-board federal budget cuts known as the sequester.
In announcing $600 million in cuts scheduled to take effect Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration listed the two local towers as ‘‘air traffic control facilities that could be closed.’’ Neither the Flagler County Airport nor Daytona Beach International Airport was on the list of possible tower closures.
The budget cuts also could mean delays of up to 90 minutes for air travelers and one-day furloughs every two-week pay period for the FAA’s 47,000 employees, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned in an appearance at Friday’s White House briefing.
Additional plans include eliminating the overnight shift at more than 60 air traffic control facilities and reducing preventative maintenance and support for all air traffic control equipment. The furloughs and closures would begin in April.
‘‘Safety is our top priority, and in the course of implementing the operational changes, we may reduce the efficiency of the national airspace in order to maintain the highest safety standards,’’ LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a letter announcing the plans. ‘‘We are aware that these service reductions will adversely affect commercial, corporate and general aviation operators. We also expect that as airlines estimate the potential impacts of these furloughs, they will change their schedules and cancel flights.’’ Delays for travelers are most likely in larger cities.
‘‘Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we will have fewer controllers on staff,’’ the letter said.
The sequester cuts were created as part of Congress’ August 2011 debt-ceiling deal, then delayed as part of the fiscal-cliff negotiations at the end of 2012. Democrats and Republicans have called for a deal to avert the cuts, but there's been little progress while Congress has been in recess.
Local pilot reaction to the FAA announcement was direct.
''I think this is bad for the airport, for the city and for safety,'' said Arlen Stauffer, vice president of the Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport. ''These airports are like the interstate highway system for cars. Airports like (New Smyrna Beach Municipal) allow commerce and travel all across the country.'' New Smyrna Beach City Manager Pam Brangaccio said if the closure goes into effect, the city would revert to the procedures pilots used before the control tower opened in 2004. Instead of communicating with tower personnel, pilots will have to communicate with each other during takeoffs and landings.
''There will also be changes in the (flight) patterns,'' she said. ''I don't think anyone will be happy.'' Ormond Beach Economic Development Director Joe Mannarino, who oversees that city's municipal airport, declined to comment on the FAA's announcement.
''I don't know enough about it to make a comment,'' he said. ''Sequestration is in the Congress' and the president's hands.'' The closures would not affect flight operations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said Justin Johnson, the school's director of aviation safety.
Embry-Riddle has about 300 flights a day and practices land ings at all of the local airports, including DeLand, which does not have a tower. The addition of towers at the New Smyrna Beach and Ormond Beach airports meant ''safe operations went to safer operations,'' he said.
''Having a tower organizes what could be chaos into safer operations,'' Johnson added.