National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi issued the following statement regarding the announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to close air traffic control towers around the country as part of sequester-caused budget cutting:
“The closure of these air traffic control towers will reduce the overall margin of safety of our entire aviation system. Ultimately, the partisan posturing in Washington that led to sequestration is the reason for today’s decision and its destructive effects on aviation. The FAA made a bad situation worse by not utilizing a well-thought-out process for evaluating the value of air traffic control towers before ordering their closure. Even if there was a good way to do this, the mandated budget cuts under sequestration have forced the FAA to prioritize its decision based on expediency rather than safety and efficiency.
“Today’s decision will have both short-term and long-term effects. These towers serve other important functions – including law enforcement activity, medical transport flights, search and rescue missions, business and commerce and supporting flight schools across America. Future aviators depend on these airports and tower services to continue their training. Every pilot starts in a small plane, including those who eventually fly commercial or military aircraft. If these schools shut down, an important pipeline of future aviators may be shut down too.
“NATCA has been warning for months that if sequestration went into effect, there could be furloughs and tower closures. We take no pleasure in being proven right. But we will not stop informing the public and the Congress how imperative it is that sequestration be replaced. Our national aviation system is a vital economic engine; it supports 10 million jobs and $1.3 trillion in economic activity. If you diminish the system, you diminish the economy. It's that simple.
“We will keep fighting to replace the sequester because it is bad for aviation and bad for our economy. The American people should understand that the effects of this will be felt for some time to come. There will be a slow degradation of capacity and efficiency at a time when we should be focused on increasing both.”