Lawmakers raise safety concerns regarding FAA tower closings

Washington – A bipartisan group of lawmakers recently took issue with the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to close (.pdf file) 149 contract air-traffic control towers in response to the sequester that went into effect March 1.

A letter (.pdf file) was sent April 11 to FAA and Department of Transportation from members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The letter stated that the “unprecedented” decision was made without “adequate safety data and study,” and requested that FAA identify lower-priority spending cuts.

At an April 16 hearing hosted by the Senate committee, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman responded to the lawmakers' concerns. Huerta stated that FAA’s guiding principle was to maintain safety while minimizing the impact on the maximum amount of travelers, and the agency has slated for closure only towers with low air traffic. Hersman said NTSB has not researched safety differences between towered and non-towered airports, but acknowledged that closing towers may introduce safety risks.

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