The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that it will close 149 air traffic control towers, claiming that shutting them down is a necessary cutback due to the sequester.
Republican Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran says the FAA could save the towers by tapping into millions of dollars in unspent FAA research money, and that shutting down the towers is similar to “removing stoplights and stop signs from our roads.”
The cuts will take affect April 7 and will mainly concern small airports. The closures are not going to shut down any of the airports, but pilots are now being asked to take more responsibility. They will be required to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency and will receive no help from ground controllers.
“These were very tough decisions,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a written statement.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta also spoke about the recent closures saying, “We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of non-towered airports.”
Not surprisingly, the plan has raised numerous concerns about safety.
“The administrator’s decision to shutter these air traffic control towers is short-sighted and dangerous,” Moran said. “Closing control towers is equivalent to removing stop lights and stop signs from our roads. It is clear that this administration is putting its top-line message, that spending cannot be cut without severe consequences, before the safety and well-being of Americans.”
Moran is in the process of pushing an amendment that will transfer $50 million from unobligated FAA research and capital funds to save the towers, however the amendment did not receive a vote when proposed as part of the 2013 stopgap-spending bill.