DANBURY, Conn. – Thanks to the sequester cuts by the federal government, the air traffic controllers at Danbury Municipal Airport might not be working there come April 1.
The Federal Aviation Administration must reduce funding to 189 of its 251 contracted control towers across the country, which will include Danbury. The FAA estimates that it costs $550,000 annually to operate each contracted tower.
A contracted tower is one in which the controllers are not employees of the FAA but work for a separate company, said Michael Safranek, Danbury's assistant airport administrator. In Danbury, a company called Midwest supplies the controllers, all of whom are former military and are FAA certified.
“Without a tower it would be the pilots figuring out the sequence of landing and take-off,” Safranek said. He compared the air traffic controllers to traffic cops who direct where and when cars can cross an intersection.
More than 70,000 operations, or flights, come into Danbury every year, Safranek said. Now, 95 percent of those flights are coordinated by controllers.
“It’s not optimal, what the air traffic control tower does is make flying in and out of these airports much more accommodating,” he said.
A letter was sent to airports with contracted towers saying they would likely lose their FAA funding and asking the airports to continue contacting their federal public officials to stall the closures.
“A 75 percent cut is highly disproportionate compared to other FAA programs and unjustly discriminates against a program the DOT Inspector General has repeatedly says is a cost-effective program for taxpayers,” Spencer Dickerson, president of the American Association of Airport Executives, said in the letter.