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Airports that are about to lose their tower crews look at their options

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Pilots would be on their own to talk to each other and sort out who was landing, and in what order at Kellogg Field, if there is no tower staff.
Pilots would be on their own to talk to each other and sort out who was landing, and in what order at Kellogg Field, if there is no tower staff.

WASHINGTON D.C. (WKZO) -- With just over a week to go before 149 airports are scheduled to lose their control tower staffs because of the sequester, some have decided to challenge the decision in court, saying it violates a law that prevents the FAA from making any sudden changes that threaten safety.

The case is easy to make that eliminating the control tower staff, and leaving the traffic control to pilots, creates greater danger.

The Governor of the State of Wisconsin says it may be able to find the funding to keep the 8 control towers they have on the closure list operating.

As we told you earlier this week, Congressman Fred Upton had a lot of questions about the closure of the tower at Kellogg Field, even though it is no longer in his district. Now he has written a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration demanding some answers.The full text of Upton’s letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta follows:

March 27, 2013

The Honorable Michael HuertaAdministratorFederal Aviation Administration800 Independence Avenue, SWWashington, DC 20591

Dear Administrator Huerta:

I am writing today regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) announced closure of the air traffic control tower at the W.K. Kellogg Airport (BTL) in Battle Creek, Michigan. I am deeply disappointed by this decision and equally concerned by the adverse impact it will have on both regional and national interests.

As you are aware, the W.K. Kellogg Airport is a large non-commercial, general aviation facility and the location of the Battle Creek Air National Guard 110th Airlift Wing. Ensuring normal operation of the Battle Creek airport is essential to the mission of the Air National Guard and U.S. military operations.

The W.K. Kellogg Airport is also home to both Western Michigan University’s (WMU) College of Aviation and local employer Duncan Aviation. From its state-of-the-art facilities in Battle Creek, WMU operates one of the most prestigious flight programs in the nation. As the third-largest aviation school in the country, WMU fulfills a critical need to train the next generation of American pilots. Duncan is the largest privately owned aircraft remanufacturing plant in North America, employing more than 500 workers at its Battle Creek facility. The company is also host to many international customers who regularly depend on being able to fly into the airport.

Any actions that jeopardize the safety and efficiency of the W.K. Kellogg Airport would have a detrimental economic impact in our region and beyond.

According to data provided by the FAA’s online Air Traffic Activity Data System (ATADS), the W.K. Kellogg Airport totaled 81,337 operations during 2012. Given the strong economic, educational, and national security interests invested in the Battle Creek operation as well as its active use, the methodology used by the FAA in determining its closures demands greater explanation.

The case of Battle Creek also begs a larger question of how the sequester cuts are being implemented at the FAA. On March 26, 2013, the President signed into law a continuing budget resolution (H.R. 933) to fund the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. As you well know, that six-month appropriation grants federal agencies, including the FAA, the authority and flexibility to reprioritize funding and avoid closing air traffic control towers.

As a matter of great importance to the people and businesses of Southwest Michigan, I would appreciate your consideration of these issues and look forward to your timely response. Should you have any questions or require additional information from my office, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, DC office for assistance: (202) 225-3761.

Sincerely,

Fred UptonMember of Congress

cc: The Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation

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