The Federal Aviation Administration will not deviate from its safety mission despite $637 million that will be cut from the agency because of sequestration, said Administrator Michael Huerta.
With the cuts, the agency must close 149 air traffic control towers around the country that are run by contractors, mostly coming at airports with lower activity levels.
“It was a difficult decision to close these towers and others across the nation,” Huerta said. “We know they are important to the communities they serve. But sequestration requires blunt fiscal cuts and leaves us with little discretion.”
Huerta said that closing a tower does not mean an airport must close, but pilots must use specific procedures to navigate the airways. Huerta said pilots do this at smaller air fields – usually at night – when a person is not manning the air traffic control tower.
“The FAA is working to reduce the impact on the majority of everyday travelers,” Huerta said. “But with a fiscal environment that is constrained in the long run, we are making difficult decisions about how to offer the best air-traffic services to the largest number of people, both now and in the future.”
He continued, “Closing contract towers is not something we are doing lightly. Communities still have the option to keep their towers open if they are able to provide the funding, and the FAA stands ready to help with this kind of transition.”