Air Traffic Tower Closures Will Strip Safety Net


“It’s premature to discuss flight cancellations, as the earliest any furloughs would occur is April 7,” said Katie Connell, spokeswoman for the industry group Airlines for America. “We are working with the FAA to minimize any impact to passengers and shippers.”

Chicago pilot Robert McKenzie, who has a commercial license but primarily flies a small Cessna, has a lot of experience landing at smaller airports without control towers.

Doing so involves a lot more concentration, he said. Pilots have to watch for other aircraft, take note of weather conditions, look for debris on runways and make calls over the radio – all while operating their own plane.

Pilots have a very good track record of doing that safely. “But it never hurts to have somebody else out there helping you watch,” McKenzie said. “It’s a nice safety net to have.”

McKenzie, a lawyer specializing in aviation matters, says the loss of towers is of concern to the Illinois Pilots Association, where he sits on the board of directors.

Most troubling, he said, would be the loss of towers at airports such as Springfield and Santa Fe, which are used by a mix of small private planes and larger passenger aircraft that often converge on airfields at different speeds and using different procedures. Controllers keep those planes safely separated and sequenced for landings.

Tower controllers also play a big role in keeping aircraft from taxiing across active runways, something that has been a key FAA focus for years.

“When you’re at an uncontrolled field, avoiding that problem is entirely dependent on other pilots not making mistakes,” McKenzie said. “There’s nobody there as a backup.”

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Posted by on Apr 1st, 2013 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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