LaHood Predicts Widespread Tower Closings, ATC Delays

 - February 22, 2013, 3:12 PM

At a White House press conference this morning, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood laid out the likely consequences of possible automatic federal budget cuts, also called sequestration, scheduled to start on March 1, to his department and the U.S. FAA.

LaHood said that, in the absence of a revised budget deal between the Obama Administration and the Congress, the FAA is planning $600 million in cuts through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends September 30.  He said the move could result in furloughs, air traffic control tower closings and an overall reduction in capacity and delays in the National Airspace System. Likely actions included the closure of more than 100 ATC towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 annual operations, the elimination of midnight shifts at 60 other towered airports, a reduction in force at open towers and air traffic control centers and delayed repairs and reduced preventive maintenance and spares provisions for all National Airspace System equipment.

In a letter sent earlier today to affected stakeholders, including the AOPA and NBAA, LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta warned that “we may reduce the efficiency of the national airspace…to maintain the highest safety standards.” LaHood said facility shutdowns would begin in April.