Manager Claims Safety Regs Could Cripple Airport

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Ithaca Tompkins Airport manager Bob Nichols has told the County Legislature to oppose federal legislation that might require additional airport firefighting staff, according to the Ithaca Journal. A companion bill to the FAA Reauthorization Act that, among other things, would authorize the FAA to change fire and rescue regulations is being considered by the Senate. The American Association of Airport Executives suggests that the financial impact of adopting the changes that bill might represent could cost nearly $4 billion in the first year without bringing a material improvement in safety for passengers. Still, the Senate bill "does not specifically include any of these proposals," noted the Journal, but the potential for change is clearly scaring people. "To me, it opens up a can of worms," county planning commissioner Ed Marx told the Journal. "Once it goes to the rulemaking phase, there are no further votes. The FAA can just make new rules." As written, the bill authorizes the FAA to change fire and rescue regulations and does not specifically include any proposals that would impose a cost burden on airports.

Opponents fear the FAA could require the purchase of 1,000 emergency vehicles and the hiring of more than 10,000 firefighters at a cost that would be passed on to airlines and passengers, further depressing that segment of the economy. For Tompkins Airport, manager Bob Nichols fears he could be forced to triple his firefighting staff and be forced to expand their facilities as well. He estimates the cost of maintaining that force to be more than $1 million per year.