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Kansas’ congressional delegation protests budget cuts at airport control towers

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, March 12, 2013, at 4:02 p.m.

Sen. Jerry Moran plans to introduce an amendment to the Senate Continuing Resolution to stop planned funding cuts to air traffic control towers, including seven towers in Kansas.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s proposed cuts includes furloughs for nearly 47,000 FAA employees for about one day per pay period through September, eliminating midnight shifts at more than 60 towers around the country and closing 238 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations or 10,000 commercial operations a year.

Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is on the list of airports that would eliminate midnight shifts.

“Irresponsible cuts from sequestration will put the flying public at risk, impair access to rural areas, jeopardize national and civil security missions and cost jobs,” Moran said in a statement.

Moran and other members of the Kansas congressional delegation also sent a letter to Department of Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta opposing the cuts.

“We request that the FAA pursue more efficient spending resolutions that will not have such a devastating impact on air safety,” the letter said.

The cuts to air traffic control towers include 189 of 251 towers included in the Contract Tower Program. Contract towers account for about 28 percent of all control tower operations. A review of the program found that the average contract tower costs roughly $1.5 million less to operate a year than a FAA tower, largely due to lower staffing and salary levels, the letter said.

The cuts seem “especially inefficient,” considering the FAA still plans to continue spending on activities unrelated to safety and does not plan to implement a hiring freeze or cut non-essential programs, the letter said.

“On the other hand, if the FAA closes these towers, all Americans will be put at risk,” the letter said.

The FAA has known about sequestration for more than 18 months and had ample time to structure more balanced and responsible cuts, it said.

Contact Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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