So Close the Towers, Already

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On Friday, a mere four days hence, the dreaded federal budget sequestration will begin. So what's going to happen? Probably not much just after March 1. The real action won't start until Congress has to get off its collective incompetent hind quarters and debate the Continuing Resolution to fund the government in general. In the meantime, various federal agencies have been anticipating the sequestration cuts and can probably keep from going over the cliff service wise immediately after March 1.

Part of that planning is political optics. That's why you saw SecTran Ray LaHood trotted out in a White House press conference last week shamelessly invoking the fear and doubt strategy, and warning that as many as 100 control towers could close as a result of budget cutbacks. Imagine the horror of pilots having to find runways without federal assistance at some airports that probably didn't need a tower in the first place. Almost gleefully, LaHood warned of airport travel delays and flight cancellations, all designed to stoke public fear and pressure Congress. He was unusually blunt in saying that's exactly what will happen by June or July, if not sooner. I think the play will take longer to unfold, frankly.

Never to let a crisis go to waste, the alphabets jumped right on this. Within hours, we got a press release from AOPA with Craig Fuller in high dudgeon over the Congress daring to sacrifice GA safety—that holiest of aviation hypostases--on the altar of politics. One can't help but speculate that this could be a bonanza for the association, as it uses a wholly manufactured budget crisis to coax yet more funds from its members to protect the second holy entity: the right to fly. Who gets screwed here, of course, is the flying public and what's left of GA. Forgive me for thinking that in Alphabet World, only more member money will fix this. It's enough to make me want to shred my Aviation Special Interest membership card and do something useful with it, like starting the poolside barbeque.

If I sound cynical and pissed about this, I am. And you should be too. I don't much give a fig who's fault the sequestration is, just recall that its purpose was to posit budget cuts so fundamentally stupid that they would never be executed. But, stupid or not, that's exactly what might be happening and it could have real impact on aviation, LaHood's sky-is-falling hysteria notwithstanding. As noted in this this independent report almost half of the $1.2 trillion in cuts come from non-defense spending, including the FAA. Neither the Congress nor FAA have been specific about potential cuts so the agency is evidently on its own to apportion the reductions. If Econsult's numbers are to be believed, cuts to the full depth would erode passenger enplanements by up to 10 percent and heavily dent tax revenues and aviation's overall contribution to the economy. Forget about pilot starts and improved aircraft sales. These are likely to be measureable effects and they are depressive, endangering an already fragile recovery.

And why is this so? Look in the mirror. We, as voters, keep sending these dimwits to Washington and since 2008, if not before, they have proven utterly unwilling to address fiscal matters at all, let alone wisely. Special interests complicate this. By joining AOPA or NBAA, we're effectively hiring our own lobbyists to make sure the cuts happen to someone else, not us. The alphabets don't do wise public policy, they represent only their members' narrow interests. We don't want higher taxes. We don't want user fees. But we also don't want reduced services. At some point, I think we might get all three and we probably deserve it for sustaining the current Congress. Consider this list of airports on the potential tower chopping block. I'll bet if I said Easton/Newnam Field in Maryland or Middle Georgia Regional could do without a tower, proponents of both could cite reasons why they're special and they, among all the others, deserve federal dollars for a control tower. These tower budgets represent a rounding error in the federal budget, but so do many other pet projects that members of other special interests consider near and dear.

So what are we supposed to do here? I write my Congressman regularly asking for fair, considered spending cuts. He never answers. Personally, I've recalibrated my expectations. Everyone agrees that the federal government spends too much money. The cuts have to come from somewhere. And while I don't believe aviation is overfunded, exactly, I also don't buy the boilerplate that closing towers reduces flight safety. In some cases, yes, but in many others, it's the difference between 98.8 percent and 98.9 percent. As a citizen and a taxpayer first and a pilot second, I'm more than willing to accept reductions in aviation services in order to get the balance sheet back in order, as long as cuts throughout the federal budgeting process are intelligently proportioned.

The chances of this happening seem remote at the moment. In this interesting podcast fellow journalist and pilot Jim Fallows figures the body politic is about as dysfunctional as it has ever been, the Civil War excepted. Depressing as it is, he's probably right.

Comments (109)

Let the cuts happen. They are way overdue! Since these are across the board cuts that means it affects all government departments. We cannot continue to borrow and spend money the government does not have, at the current rate. Taxpayers are finally starting to say enough with more taxes that the government wastes. As far as closing towers I'll bet that installing remote communications outlets are a lot cheaper than an operating a tower for IFR ops. And I could come up with plenty of ways the FAA and the DOT could save money or at least get more value out of what we pay in taxes for those budgets.

Posted by: matthew wagner | February 24, 2013 8:48 PM    Report this comment

In looking through the list, there are airports on there I could never figure why they had a control tower to begin with! A lot of these airports would be served just fine with a GCO to get in touch with approach control, and perhaps a temporary tower during a large event. I'm waiting on a field approval on an airplane, so I'm probably screwed there. Which begs the question, I have the propeller manufacturer's engineering approval for my mod - why do I even need to jump though the field approval process here? Grrrr!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | February 24, 2013 9:17 PM    Report this comment

Oh, FWIW, I do a lot of flying through the former DAY approach airspace. Everyone predicted armageddon when they remoted it from Columbus, but honestly it works just fine - other than the controllers reminding me they're Columbus when I forget and call them Dayton!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | February 24, 2013 9:19 PM    Report this comment

Many "great" societies have come and gone before this one that we are fortunate enough to be in. This just seems to be the natural cycle of things. I am also pissed off though to be here for the begining of the end.

Posted by: MARK JENSEN | February 24, 2013 10:24 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I wouldn't worry. Let them "blow it up".

Posted by: Matthew Lee | February 25, 2013 2:04 AM    Report this comment

The sequester represents a tiny portion of bloated federal spending. Watching how the cuts are accomplished will give us all insight into how effective or ridiculous the federal managers are.

In the FAA's case, the threat of furloughing all the air traffic controllers a small portion of the time is an obvious attempt to: Scare the flying public; and make sure the pain is temporary. They expect to get every penny restored in the feeding trough so they aren't actually doing anything permanent like laying off useless bureaucrats. Instead they take the most obviously necessary people (controllers) and cut their hours a little bit.

I still think this would be an excellent time to get rid of the FAA aeromedical department entirely. That would save plenty of money permanently and free pilots and operators from the dynasty of unjustified restrictions on pilot's health issues. If the airlines or other commercial operators think more than a driver's license is needed to show their pilots are still breathing they can provide their own medical screening programs.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | February 25, 2013 3:21 AM    Report this comment

Debate the pro's and/or con's of sequestration as you wish, it's long-term impact if perpetuated only extends funding of current entitlements by 2 yrs before costing 100% of our GDP. The long-term 'fix' has been documented time & again: fewer services and more revenue. For those of us who have opposed a penny or two more federal fuel tax for our cars - for decades - and choose to accept too-few tunnel & bridge inspections, we'll probably continue this selfish mindset.

Posted by: Jack Tyler | February 25, 2013 4:45 AM    Report this comment

I regularly fly into a good numder of the airports on the list, especially in Florida. Most every time I wonder why they have a tower, they are just not that busy! The only reason I can see for a tower there is as a left over from past glory days, or as a gift from a senator trying to buy votes by supporting local delusions of granduer (PGD).

Posted by: James Hiatt | February 25, 2013 5:35 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I agree with almost everything you said. Almost. But when you said "Everyone agrees that the federal government spends too much money," you sadly were incorrect.

Our president recently said "we don't have a spending problem." This immediately was echoed by the Senate majority leader and the House minority leader. In late December, we got the biggest tax increase in the history of our republic, and not one dime of spending cuts.

In our collective rage over who to tax and where to spend, much of this nation reveals that they could not care less about annual $1 trillion deficits or our $ 16 trillion and growing debt.

Bring on the sequester - please!!!!!

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | February 25, 2013 6:12 AM    Report this comment

If the Govment didn't waste SO much of our money and seek more to perpetuate and grow itself, maybe we could empathize but this isn't the way it does business. If the Govment did have such a "know it all/I'm smarter than you" attitude, maybe we could empathize.

I looked at the potential list of towers slated for closure in FL and most of them SHOULD be closed. As Paul said, WE keep electing the dimwits in Congress who won't even now provide us with a budget so ... as far as I am concerned, let the cuts begin. My input is ... let the furloughs start with the Congress itself.

With respect to OUR little GA piece of the pie, I can think of dozens of places the FAA could cut its budget and make GA stronger in the process ... starting with approving the AOPA/EAA third class medical exemption immediately. Hell, just do away with it altogether for non-commercial piloting.

Gimme a call, Ray LaHood ... I'll give ya a hand with yer axe.

If such a small percentage budget reduction is going to cause the sky to fall ... just think about how much fun we're all gonna have when it REALLY falls.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | February 25, 2013 6:23 AM    Report this comment

I am with the ones who wonder why there is a tower/class D in some of the places I have flown into. I am based at a contract tower airport, dont recon that it will be affected. However, if it was taken off line, It wouldnt bother me. I used to fly into a semi rural airport near LZU which had cheapest gas in the area, had more trafic than several class D that I know of. I have seen as many as 7 or 8 planes in line for gas, and more coming in. I did have one bad experience. Some dumbass did a strait in unanounced till on short final with 5 of us in pattern.

Posted by: Charles Heathco | February 25, 2013 7:24 AM    Report this comment

Oh no!!! Not Roswell!!! Little green men might die!!!

Rather than picking 100, out of that list of 200 towers, why don't we just close all 200 of 'em?

Posted by: Michael Dean | February 25, 2013 7:28 AM    Report this comment

There are 268 towers scheduled to be closed on or about April 1 if the sequester/continuing resolution mess is not resolved. Yes, some towers may not be neccessary except on weekends or specal events (my airport has an airshow scheduled for April 6), but the meat-axe is a piss-poor way to do this. For decades, Congress and the president have quietly done their jobs and kept the government running. Now, since 2010, they can't get their s**t together for even this simple mechanical function. All you Tea-partiers,congratulations! You have finally shut off the Federal government spigot and cost jobs and safety. You will soon learn how vital the government really is, and it may cost a few pilots' lives, and some on the ground, to re-learn that aviation safety is a TEAM effort, not just a "pilot" thing.

Posted by: Richard Smith | February 25, 2013 7:31 AM    Report this comment

"...as long as cuts throughout the federal budgeting process are intelligently proportioned."

INTELLIGENTLY proportioned.

ROTFLMAO

Posted by: Michael Dean | February 25, 2013 7:34 AM    Report this comment

Excellent article here:

Airports and Air Traffic Control The United States should embrace the types of reforms adopted around the world to privatize airports and commercialize air traffic control services. Investor-owned airports and commercialized ATC companies can better respond to changing market conditions, and they can freely tap debt and equity markets for capital expansion to meet rising demand. Such enterprises also have greater management flexibility to deal with workforce issues and complex technology implementation. Today, an important aspect of the federal ATC system is the high labor costs. In 2010, the operations portion of FAA had about 43,000 workers who earned a total of $6.5 billion in wages and benefits, or about $151,000 per worker.4 Just looking at controllers, a 2005 FAA study found that compensation packages averaged $166,000 annually.5 Labor costs account for two-thirds of the cost of FAA operations.6 Read at: Downsize This! http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/transportation

Posted by: Robert Colby | February 25, 2013 7:37 AM    Report this comment

Many of those towers could be shut down and would be hardly missed. But how about the FAA start with cutting its bloated headquarters down to size before reducing operations?

Posted by: Kenneth Katz | February 25, 2013 7:42 AM    Report this comment

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's subcommittee on Aviation, Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), pointed to a study from the Department of Transportation that flight towers staffed under the FAA's Contract Tower Program were cost-effective.

“The [DOT inspector general] determined that contract towers had a lower number and rate of reported safety incidents than similar FAA towers," Petri said in a statement after conducting a hearing Wednesday.

"The IG also found that the contract towers provided air traffic services to low-activity airports at lower costs than the FAA could otherwise provide," he continued. "The IG determined that the average contract tower costs roughly $1.5 million less to operate than a comparable FAA tower — due largely to lower staffing and salary levels."

The FAA was sharply criticized last year for multiple reports of its air traffic controllers sleeping on the job. Petri said Wednesday that private controllers handle about 28 percent of the aviation traffic in the United States.

Panelists at the Aviation subpanel hearing he chaired on Wednesday agreed with his assessment. FAA Air Traffic Organization Chief Operating Officer David Grizzle said the agency was supportive because the agency is "always investigating ways to operate more cost-effectively by reviewing and adjusting, as necessary, staffing levels, operating hours, and deployment of system enhancements. thehill.com

Posted by: Robert Colby | February 25, 2013 7:45 AM    Report this comment

Alas, "everyone" DOESN'T agree that the federal government spends too much money. To wit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/23/americans-still-dont-want-to-cut-any-actual-government-programs/ . Until we agree on what we want the government to do, we don't know if it's spending "too much" or not. It could be spending too much, just right, or not enough. What's clear is that we're not paying for what we're currently asking the government to do, so something definitely needs to change to get that into rough balance. And you're quite right - the mass of competing special interests doesn't lead to a fair and productive agreement about a) what we want out of government, b) what that is going to cost, and c) how we're going to pay for it. Until we have that adult conversation, the food fight will continue.

Posted by: Scott Dunham | February 25, 2013 7:45 AM    Report this comment

Its good to see FDK is on the list, home of AOPA. That field needs a tower like a hole in the head. Too bad they pushed out the glider club because of it. I love ESN too - did 95% of my IFR training approaches there. Pretty much had the controller to myself most of the time. But yeah, they don't need a tower either. I wager that all these on the list ought to be trimmed no matter what...

Posted by: michael anderson | February 25, 2013 7:51 AM    Report this comment

Sorry - I put a link in my other message that got filtered, but Pew just did a study asking people about 19 different potential areas for cuts - and the public answer was essentially none of them. In the abstract, people say "spend less", but in specific terms, the answer changes. We need to get over that and make some hard decisions.

Posted by: Scott Dunham | February 25, 2013 7:53 AM    Report this comment

I think what the dems are worried about is that government spending will be cut by $1.2 trillion and no one will notice.

Let's go to a flat tax and completely do away with the IRS. That'll save us a few bucks.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | February 25, 2013 7:55 AM    Report this comment

Of course they should budget a few dollars in order to have someone shut down the facilities correctly: drain fuel from generators, remove tv remote batteries, empty refrigerator, whatever it takes to save dollars if/when those towers are to re-open. Reminds me of picking up airliners from heavy maintenance to find food, milk, etc left in the galleys for weeks. An integral part of saving is planning, but they don't get that either.

Posted by: Ken Holston | February 25, 2013 7:56 AM    Report this comment

This is all about public employee union bosses demanding more and more from taxpayers.

My experience in the Midwest with KGYY, KBMG, KMIE, KBAK, KALN,KBMI ,KDEC,KMDH,KMWA ,KUGN ,KATW ,KCWA,KEAU,KENW,KJVL,KLSE,KMWC,KOSH ,KUES, KBTL,KJXN ,KSAW private contract towers has been great. The controllers are very helpful and gladly make presentations at local aviation seminars.

Posted by: Robert Colby | February 25, 2013 8:05 AM    Report this comment

I would add that the contract guys at my port FYV, are friendlier for the most part and happy to help, say thanks if you do something to help them. One exception is the newer guy, formerly faa controller.

Posted by: Charles Heathco | February 25, 2013 8:17 AM    Report this comment

"If I sound cynical and pissed about this, I am."

Some one once said cynicism is reality spoken out loud. Cynicism, like so many other things, improves with age and experience. Our government has fully earned our cynicism.

Posted by: Thom Riddle | February 25, 2013 8:32 AM    Report this comment

Herein Easton, MDS they installed a contract tower which was completely unnecessary. IMHO. By manipulating figures. Claimed 160,000 movements annually. Fact: 27,650 last 12 months. 170 airplanes based here. Fact: 83 registered in the entire county. Anyway they installed a Control tower and now maybe the county will have to make up salary differences based on what they said they had in movements and what is factual. Politics, of course. Probably many more similar instances. CFI for 50 years and retired Federal NTSB accident investigator (530 for probable cause) plus ex-airport manager and FBO.

Posted by: John Hruban | February 25, 2013 8:49 AM    Report this comment

The problem with sequestration is targeting. The budget problem is mainly driven by three things: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. So naturally sequestration addresses everything but these programs. You could abolish DOD and still not solve the problem caused by these programs. The unintended consequences are going to rank up there with the luxury boat tax that killed that American industry instead of generating tax revenues. Unfortunate and predictable.

Posted by: DANIEL DEDONA | February 25, 2013 9:07 AM    Report this comment

If everyone flew like I did, there wouldn't be a problem. Trouble is, not everyone does. Think of the old saying that goes "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is."

So as one of the users that fly in the most busy airspace in the country that are near and fly frequently to 13 airports on LaHood's list, the thought of shutting down TWO towered airports less than 5 nm from LAX (SMO is 4.9 nm, HHR is 3.8 nm) is, shall I say, "sporty."

Then we have the thought of Whiteman, a mere 4.5 nm from Burbank and 4.83 nm from Van Nuys (Note, all 3 funnel their VFR traffic through/near the Newhall pass, just 5 nm north of VNY and the VNY ILS 16R goes right through that very pass, so it's been VERY sporty at times over the years)

Now, couple that with inexperienced student pilots (of which I've heard controllers get very angry with) and, yeah, by all means, shut down the towers because I'd love to get a box of popcorn and watch the ensuing fiasco.

Remember, not everyone flies like you do . . . .

Posted by: David Rosing | February 25, 2013 9:11 AM    Report this comment

Get rid of the two-term limit so there is an incentive for a sitting president to get a grip on his party and tighten party discipline. At the moment congress and the senate do what they want because they know they will be in "power" longer than the executive, so block anything which does not have local pork attached -- like budget reform.

Posted by: Brian McCulloch | February 25, 2013 9:14 AM    Report this comment

Get rid of the two-term limit so there is an incentive for a sitting president to get a grip on his party and tighten party discipline. At the moment congress and the senate do what they want because they know they will be in "power" longer than the executive, so block anything which does not have local pork attached -- like budget reform.

Posted by: Brian McCulloch | February 25, 2013 9:14 AM    Report this comment

As one who has flown into many of the airports on this list, I say its OK. I agree that some in the LA Basin will be "sporty." However, Hawthorne is a ghost town during the times I was in the pattern. IMHO SMO is probably the most sporty one on the list. The Santa Monica city fathers must be joyful and will start crying about the "dangers" to their community as another reason to shut it down.

How many remember the controllers strike in the early 80s. Yes, they restricted ATC IFR traffic to aircraft that weighed more than 12,500 pounds. GA could travel tower in route and that worked for the little guy most of the time. Everyone was patient and polite. We got through it. Airlines schedules went on with minimum interruption.

Yeah, we all see LaHood playing chicken little and forecasting that the sky is going to fall. Me, I don't think so.

Posted by: Charles Lloyd | February 25, 2013 9:25 AM    Report this comment

So will the cuts be responsible or just political theater for the media cameras to posture for the 2014 congressional elections?

Paul - twice you singled out congress. The executive branch isn't/shouldn't a by-stander.

Posted by: Robert Mahoney | February 25, 2013 9:27 AM    Report this comment

I just looked at the list. I can't opine about the towers along the left or right coasts, because I don't fly there. But from my experiences over the years flying through the country's midsection, I see towers listed that should have been closed years ago, towers that were created where there was never a need, and frankly towers absent from the list that would never be missed if they were closed, also. Contrary to media language, controllers do not control airplanes, pilots control airplanes. So if most of the towers on the list are closed, it won't adversely affect anyone except those who no longer work there. Note "adversely"--change is not necessary adverse.

But let's don't stop there. There is lots of dead weight in all agencies of the gummit, not just the FAA. Just like any large organization, private or public, there are those who do nothing but warm their chairs, i.e., those who should never have been hired and those who should have been fired, but who have somehow avoided the chopper's axe in the past--and they're at all levels. Might oughta start with paring out all the dead weight occupying offices in the 3 Senate office buildings and the 4 House office buildings--along with all of the dead weight occupying offices in the White House.

Posted by: Cary Alburn | February 25, 2013 9:49 AM    Report this comment

Is there anybody here who knows that if they cut the controller head count at KORD, KATL , KLAX, etc., there will be no effect? Is there anybody here who knows for certain that cuts will not have to be made at these airports as a result of sequestration?

Posted by: STEPHEN EGOLF | February 25, 2013 9:55 AM    Report this comment

Paul, While I agree with you 100%, when you talk about a safety difference of 98.9% vs 98.8%, most of the flying public finds that totally unacceptable. They don't understand and are unable to view the risk rationally.

Posted by: bill ludlow | February 25, 2013 10:07 AM    Report this comment

As mentioned, sequestration is simply "political theater" or blackmail if you prefer. The fact is that instead of doing strategic trimming as any private corporation or family would do when faced with a financial crisis, the government is going for those services which will most adversly affect the public. The whole point seems to be ECONOMIC TERRORISM to force taxpayers to beg for higher taxes.

Posted by: Richard Montague | February 25, 2013 10:07 AM    Report this comment

For those who say bring on the sequester, please read the bill. There is plenty that we could cut but doing it this way is crazy. I would venture to say that most of those most passionately shouting "bring it on" have not bothered to read the bill and instead listen to the sound bites on Fox News or Rand Paul press releases. Regardless of how one feels about the value of government, you really ought to know what you are talking about.

Herewith:

the Budget Control Act (page 42, line 13)—requires that sequestration be implemented in exactly the manner prescribed in Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, which requires that across-the-board cuts be applied evenly by “program, project and activity.”

As for Paul B's assertion that agencies have the latitude on what to cut, it depends on how each organization budgets. Some roll up their budgets in larger accounts and have a lot of latitude but most have more specific budgets dedicated to programs and contracts. For instance the DOD might have contracts for 10 ships but they are not allowed to cut one ship, they have to take 10% out of each ship likely driving up the units costs (think of the cost of paying rent for each drydock longer as an example of the cost of delays).

Posted by: STEVE DUNBAR | February 25, 2013 10:17 AM    Report this comment

As for the percentage cuts - look closely. because entitlement programs (not necessarily a good way to describe insurance and retirement programs people have paid into I might add) are not included, agency cuts are on the order of 8.5 to 13%..

Again, you could probably find that money to cut, including a lot of control towers . There are sure more intelligent ways to do it and we ought to be discussing them. My experience is you can kill yourself worrying about which tower to cut while the big programs, F-35 or Next Gen for example, roll on under their own inertia. You need to focus on where the real money is to make any difference.

Posted by: STEVE DUNBAR | February 25, 2013 10:19 AM    Report this comment

Talk about ubber expensive unneeded stuff. How about eh F-35? What a waste! we have been fighting theses endless wars with drones and boots on the ground. And I might add that they have them wandering around somewhat aimlessly, trying to avoid getting their legs blown off or being shot by one of the native solders they are trying to train.

Posted by: Charles Heathco | February 25, 2013 10:30 AM    Report this comment

It’s 2013, and as I look around it seems that we are truly living in the “Twilight Zone”! As demonstrated by the Nov election, about 51% of the public now believes that more government “investing” (i.e. spending) will create economic prosperity and grow the middle class. Of course, if this were true Greece, Spain, France, and most of the EU countries would have the strongest economies in the world. Now we’re told that a paltry 2% budget cut in the Transportation Department’s $74+ billion annual budget will force the FAA to pair services to the point of reduced public safety and major dislocation to the ATC system. Not to put too fine a point on it, but how stupid have people become?

As previously alluded to, the real fear in the big government crowd is that if the copious amounts of waste, fraud, union patronage, and lack of accountability are ever culled out of the system the public would see that services can actually be improved while substantially lowering costs! It has been said that “we get the government we deserve”. I wonder how bad things will have to get before people wise up…

Posted by: William McClain | February 25, 2013 10:38 AM    Report this comment

I'm with Paul on this one. I am also really curious about how come they can figure out the need to close towers without knowing the approximate amount of the actual cuts. None of these doom mongers ever states their current budget and their future budget. We also don't have a budget for the country. Of course spending is out of control, we don't even have a budget.

Posted by: Eric Warren | February 25, 2013 10:41 AM    Report this comment

I wonder what this cutting season would be like if we had a leader in the white house instead of a permanent political campaigner. The president should have submitted a bill with specific cuts that could be handled without scaring the public with the most damaging cuts possible. However, that would take leadership - something we have not had in the white house for over 4 years.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | February 25, 2013 10:58 AM    Report this comment

Agree or disagree, the OMB puts out a budget every year. the story that the President has not put a budget out is just plane false.

whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Overview

I do agree that there is a lot in there that I would not fund but not 13% less unless you want to gut the DOD.

Not a bad idea actually when you consider that we spend as much as the next 12 nations COMBINED on defense.

By the way, understand that congressional budget bills are just templates, the appropriations bills are where the money gets spent and there is no mandate that they match the budget - often they do not and the president has little control over what congress puts in them without a line item veto.

Posted by: STEVE DUNBAR | February 25, 2013 11:37 AM    Report this comment

This reminds me of electricity and its supply. People oppose all aspects of its expansion - no new generation plants, no new transmission lines etc. But demand is increasing! At some point everything will collapse then what does everyone do? Blame the government of course.

Now look at the financial issues facing the world at some point the money totally dries up and then what happens - Government will close down.

Does no one thinks this could be a good thing? No FAA/CAA/EASA etc, no government departments and best of all no Banks. It will be a new life and probably a better one.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | February 25, 2013 12:04 PM    Report this comment

At the end of 2008, we had a financial crisis. Our government responded by "temporarily" growing spending by 50%. The crisis has passed. But instead of talking about returning spending to pre-crisis levels, our "leaders" tell us that we need to increase government spending (excuse me - "investment") still more.

Our present government is like cancer. If we don't remove it, it will kill us. "Rational" cuts would be better than arbitrary ones. But neither side has the guts or the brains to make that happen. Arbitrary cuts are better than the only truly available alternative: continued increases in government spending, "financed" with still more debt.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | February 25, 2013 12:20 PM    Report this comment

Bruce,

Oddly enough there is just one man in the world who is keeping this insanity going. His name is Bernanke. So long as he keeps "Printing" enough money to buy up all the new debt from the federal government the party will continue. When the day comes he decides it is time to stop "Printing" the whole world will suffer a real setback. Our own government will have to face real interest rates on the 16 Trillion in debt. At the same time they won't be able to borrow more money to pay for all the excessive spending because nobody will have money for that.

If the feds can't cut even a tiny percentage of current spending then what will they do when they need to instantly cut 1/3 of all federal spending? I don't know the exact answer but I am sure it will be very painful.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | February 25, 2013 12:33 PM    Report this comment

It was mentioned above that the Whitehouse puts out a budget every year…this is true. It is also true that for the last 4 years when the President’s budgets have been voted on in the U.S. Senate (a body controlled by the Democratic Party) that not one single Senator from either party voted to approve those budgets. NOT ONE! The President cannot even garner a single Democratic vote in the U.S. Senate for his budgets… for his entire first term!! I understand this to be unprecedented in modern American history. This is just one of many reasons why so many are questioning the leadership coming from this Whitehouse…

Posted by: William McClain | February 25, 2013 1:26 PM    Report this comment

Fundamentally this is about maintaining the current tax structure enacted under President Bush while the President Obama wants to go back to a tax structure that looks an awful lot like the tax policy of the Clinton years.

Look at the evidence, which produced better results?

Look at Europe, the spending cuts the Republicans are proposing are very much like the current UK austerity program. Look at the results - the deeper the Austerity, they deeper the deficit. The savings gained by cuts are more than offset by decreased revenues due to falling GDP or very slow GDP growth rates. I have yet to find an example where tax cuts and austerity grew an economy - I'd love to hear about one if you know of any. IMO Latvia does not count, driving the economy to over 20% unemployment through austerity and claiming success by getting it back to 14% is not what most people would call success - by the way, check out the emigration rate which also makes their story look better than it is.

I know the aviation world skews right politically so I doubt I will convert the masses. This is my last post on the subject but I will read yours.

Posted by: STEVE DUNBAR | February 25, 2013 1:32 PM    Report this comment

William,

Can't let that one go by. the Senate never voted on the Obama budget. they voted on a bill put up by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions that he called the Obama Budget. The Bill was 56 pages long and basically repeated the Obama revenue and spending targets with no specifics. The bill said nothing about where the spending cuts and tax increases would have come from. For instance, he could have decided to cut taxes on millionaires and only tax grandmothers. Not even Republican would vote for something that open ended.

The Obama budget was a specific 2,000 page proposal. The democrats did not vote for the bill because it was not a budget but a stunt.

By the way, none of the Republican budgets passed either.

Like Mr. Bigs, we can all have our opinions about the President's policies but we should all try to learn the facts.

Posted by: STEVE DUNBAR | February 25, 2013 1:46 PM    Report this comment

The Chinese must be laughing all the way to the bank, considering that they own so much of the US government's debt, and are using that investment to buy up American GA companies.

Posted by: matthew wagner | February 25, 2013 2:02 PM    Report this comment

Mr Bigs,

I was talking about the sequester and the comment that Obama had not put out an alternative. Like it or not he did. It is not the budget I would have put out but it is out there.

You logical argument is overwhelming - I'll consider myself banished from your community.

Parting thought -More than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions… Private firms made nearly 83 percent of the subprime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers that year. So how exactly did Fannie and Freddie and Barney Frank bring down the banking system?

Posted by: STEVE DUNBAR | February 25, 2013 2:05 PM    Report this comment

Your outta here, Bigs. You can disagree, but name calling of members isn't on the agenda.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 25, 2013 2:12 PM    Report this comment

We have many Towers in my area, that have been closed for over thirty years!

No one misses them, and they stand as interesting relics. Also, for the non-aviating public, they think they are being watched on the ramp, so that helps prevent crime.

We could staff them with movie-star mannequins, (for the proper ego of normal controllers), and for brains, we could give them (via a small slot in the forehead) more computing power than NASA had in 1969! Yes, with the ubiquitous iPhone, all this is possible!

"Siri, am I cleared to land?" "No, you need to stay up there another hour, bad boy!" "Siri doesn't understand that word." "Do you want me to look it up on the internet?"

I think I'll stick to flying my own airplane, thank you!

Posted by: Ron Brown | February 25, 2013 2:24 PM    Report this comment

steve dunbar Take a look at the US in the 1940's which is also one of the most financially and largest growth periods in the history of the US. The following is from Fact Check website -- "Sharp decline in spending after World War II. Beginning in 1946, Congress cut spending for three straight fiscal years. The biggest drop occurred in 1946, when spending dropped by $37.5 billion or about 40 percent (from $92.7 billion to $55.2 billion). That $37.5 billion would be worth $425.4 billion in today’s dollars — making it the largest cut in adjusted dollars."

Posted by: Joseph Chambers | February 25, 2013 4:14 PM    Report this comment

I looked at which airports in the LA TAC will be affected. The closest thing I can justify needing one are Santa Monica, Hawthorne, and Fullerton. Santa Monica and Hawthorne becuase of their proximity to LAX (did anyone see the little Class D on the NE corner). Santa Monica has the added use of handling traffic on some of the VFR routes through the LA Class B. Fullerton, because of its proximity to the Disneyland TFR which requires that you have a discrete squawk pretty much as soon as you take off. I'll admit KFUL would probably be better served just remoting that airport from KSNA clearance and having you contact SoCal as soon as you take off.

Posted by: Keith Mendoza | February 25, 2013 4:38 PM    Report this comment

I agree with Steve Dunbar and like the humor of Ron Brown. Too bad they are lonely voices here.

Posted by: Rankin Whittington | February 25, 2013 5:41 PM    Report this comment

Nice try Steve! You are trotting out the bogus cover that the Whitehouse sought to provide to Senate Democrats AFTER the May, 2012 vote (which was 99-0) saying that Senator Session’s resolution… “was different from Obama’s budget because it did not include policy report language’’. PAALEESE! Anyone can Google the vote to read the facts, and how it was reported. BTW, the Senate also rejected the 2011 Obama budget by a vote of 97-0. There must have been Republican fleas in that one too…

Your statement about the budgets offered by Senate Republicans not passing is true, but at least they received virtually every Republican vote in the Senate. My point was that even Democrats don’t want to go on record voting for the Obama budgets. For 3 years and counting Senate Democrats don’t want to pass ANY budget, even though they are required by law to do so.

Posted by: William McClain | February 25, 2013 5:43 PM    Report this comment

Joseph,

Thanks. Interesting to look at that data. Looking at the St. Louis Fed GDP numbers. it looks like the GDP growth rate was pretty anemic in the late '40s including a serious recession in '49 (-5% GDP growth). Two of the 4 years had negative per capita growth rates. The '50s were where the consistent growth kicked in and by that time government spending was increasing again.

They have a very useful graphing tool at research.stlouisfed.org where you can plot all sorts of data. GDP growth rates, population, inflation, per capita GDP, etc.. as much or as little as you like at whatever scale the data set will support.

I'd encourage anyone to give it a whirl. The real numbers can pretty enlightening. For instance, bet you didn't know that federal spending from 4th quarter 2008 to fourth quarter 2012 is only up 12.7 %. Look at the 2000 to 2012 plot of total government expenditures. The curve has flattened pretty dramatically since 2009.

It is true that the total debt plot is scary but not as bad as a percentage of GDP. The projections only get scary of you look at health care costs for the baby boomers.

So how does this relate to the sequestration argument ? Only in that the crisis is long term and solutions like the sequester are shortsighted.

Posted by: STEVE DUNBAR | February 25, 2013 6:05 PM    Report this comment

If you take the average $3 million that the FAA spends on rural tower buildings and instead use this money to build a complete new airstrip on the far side of each town, there be no need for any controller at either field, forever.

Posted by: Bill Berson | February 25, 2013 6:46 PM    Report this comment

Ok Steve, let’s walk through the basics. Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE’s) Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac sold bonds to investors to raise money. With the money they raised they purchased mortgages from banks and other lenders, securitized these pools of mortgages into Mortgage Back Securities (MBS) and sold them to investors. This process allowed lenders to make many more loans, as they are limited to the amount of loans they can carry on their balance sheets by federal regulations relating to asset ratios. As the largest buyers of mortgages in the country (GSE’s own over 50% of all mortgages in the U.S.) they set criteria that lenders must meet on their loans in order for the GSE’s to purchase them. These criteria were adopted by many other investors who purchased mortgages, so they became the defacto standards for lending nationwide. As a result of changes in law made by the Clinton Administration in 1995 to the mission of GSE’s an element of the criteria came to include a requirement that lenders make a certain percentage of mortgage loans to borrowers whose income was below the national median. This percentage grew over time, eventually exceeding 50%! In other words, if a lender didn’t make enough loans to low income folks the GSE’s would not purchase ANY of that lender’s loans. Given this mandate, lenders became creative in designing loan packages that would allow low income borrowers to qualify, such as adjustable rates plans. Everyone knows the rest of the story.

Posted by: William McClain | February 25, 2013 8:23 PM    Report this comment

Steve Continued…The accounting scandals in 2003 & 2004 involving Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae respectively found that both organizations willfully engaged in fraud and deception. The investigations revealed that they improperly manipulated their earnings and profits just enough so that management would meet their bonus targets...very substantial bonus targets. During this time period, the Bush administration repeatedly introduced legislation to curb GSE’s and put them under a different regulatory scheme. Democrats in the Senate, lead by Chris Dodd, and in the House by Barney Frank, the ranking minority member of the House Financial Service Committee (which had oversight over the GSE’s) worked to loosen mortgage lending standards and defend GSEs from Republican regulation attempts – time and time again! As it turns out, their efforts were successful and no regulatory changes were made. It’s probably an unrelated coincidence that Herb Moses, who was Fannie’s assistant director for product initiatives from 1995 through 1998, and who received substantial bonuses as a result of their misstated earnings, was at the time the “spouse” of Barney Frank…the congressman charged with oversight of GSE’s.

Posted by: William McClain | February 25, 2013 8:24 PM    Report this comment

Steve Continued…The accounting scandals in 2003 & 2004 involving Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae respectively found that both organizations willfully engaged in fraud and deception. The investigations revealed that they improperly manipulated their earnings and profits just enough so that management would meet their bonus targets...very substantial bonus targets. During this time period, the Bush administration repeatedly introduced legislation to curb GSE’s and put them under a different regulatory scheme. Democrats in the Senate, lead by Chris Dodd, and in the House by Barney Frank, the ranking minority member of the House Financial Service Committee (which had oversight over the GSE’s) worked to loosen mortgage lending standards and defend GSEs from Republican regulation attempts – time and time again! As it turns out, their efforts were successful and no regulatory changes were made. It’s probably an unrelated coincidence that Herb Moses, who was Fannie’s assistant director for product initiatives from 1995 through 1998, and who received substantial bonuses as a result of their misstated earnings, was at the time the “spouse” of Barney Frank…the congressman charged with oversight of GSE’s.

Posted by: William McClain | February 25, 2013 8:25 PM    Report this comment

I promised I was going to stop so I will not write a long rebuttal. Suggest you read any number of the rebuttals to this theory. Most recent was in Washington Post. washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/13/no-marco-rubio-government-did-not-cause-the-housing-crisis/

The math and the chronology don't work.

Besides this is really getting pretty far off topic - I only mentioned it isn response to a post that has since been removed.

By the way, I never said Fannie or Freddie were good or did not engage in reprehensible behavior, just that they could not have torn down the house of cards by themselves. It took the creation and deregulation of derivatives to do that.

Posted by: STEVE DUNBAR | February 25, 2013 8:43 PM    Report this comment

As I drove to St Augustine to work on my C172 today, it hit me. WHY is NE FLorida Regional Airport (KSGJ) which handles quite a few heavy hitters in some pretty big bizjets on the list while the next airport south -- Flagler Airport (KXFL) which also has a contract tower NOT on that list. Answer ... because if they close the tower at KSGJ it'll have a bigger impact on folks with bizjets and they'll scream louder. And, I'd be willing to bet that all those GA training airplanes with tail numbers that end in "ECHO ROMEO" that use Flager have someone at their school making phone calls to connected people in the FAA. Either way, the whole thing STINKS!

FAA types earning those kind of numbers ought to HAVE to go out on the street and see if they can get even 25% of that salary doing something different. It's time to just shut the FAA down and let the pilots take care of themselves.

BESIDES ... we now have ADS-B coming ... yeah, right.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | February 25, 2013 8:45 PM    Report this comment

HEY ... I just realized it. DUH ... that was Paul's premise at the beginning and the title of this article.

STOP TALKING and just start shutting them down, Mr LaHood.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | February 25, 2013 8:50 PM    Report this comment

Steve Dunbar makes sense.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | February 26, 2013 4:14 AM    Report this comment

IBD Editorial Debunks LaHood's 'Flight Delays' Lament About Sequestration

By Tom Blumer | February 26, 2013 ".. an Investor's Business Daily editorial Monday evening completely refuted outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's claim that a $600 million "cut" (really "a reduction in projected spending") would hurt the Federal Aviation Administration so badly that flight delays would be an inevitable result. One suspects that similar analyses of other agencies would also reveal that the fears expressed by "President Armageddon" (the Wall Street Journal's recent nickname for President Obama) have little if any basis in fact -- if one bravely assumes that the administration isn't hell-bent on inflicting the maximum amount of visible pain if sequestration indeed comes to pass. As far as the FAA is concerned, IBD shows that all the agency would have to do is redeploy its existing resources -- something which obviously should have been done long ago -- and should ultimately privatize the entire operation, as Canada has successfully done" newsbusters.org

Posted by: Robert Colby | February 26, 2013 8:11 AM    Report this comment

" Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has warned of impending furloughs of air traffic controllers, who may need to take one day off every two weeks, and said air-travel delays are likely across the country. Asked Friday why the airline lobby predicted no major impact on air travel from the sequester, he said, "I don't think they have the information we're presenting to them today."

"The idea that we're just doing this to create some kind of a horrific scare tactic is nonsense," LaHood said. But it's a pressure tactic nonetheless: "What I'm trying to do is to wake up members of the Congress on the Republican side to the idea that they need to come to the table." www.9news.com

Posted by: Robert Colby | February 26, 2013 8:58 AM    Report this comment

"[Sequestration's] purpose was to posit budget cuts so fundamentally stupid that they would never be executed" -- yes, but only because both sides would be *forced* to develop substantial but targeted reductions -- or else face "stupid" across-the-board sequestration. This bipartisan outcome never happened. This is a Bad Thing. Sorry for the somewhat off-aviation topic comment. Blue Skies!

Posted by: BRADLEY SPATZ | February 26, 2013 9:53 AM    Report this comment

Our Posturing President--and his appointees--are trying to gin up public fear for his failed program of "sequestering." They have intentionally tried to inflict maximum pain, rather than mitigate the effect of minor spending cuts. It's been met with a collective yawn--(except by the news media and "inside the beltway" wonks)--most people have heard government cry wolf before.

EVERY citizen who pays attention to events (beyond "Dancing with the Stars" or other mindless TV) knows of specific government waste--and that is especially relevant in our industry. I believe this will backfire on Obama--just as the air traffic control strike (alsoan effort to cause maximum pain)backfired on them. The public was initially supportive--UNTIL they found out that they were trying to inflict pain--then the public turned against them.

The real issue should be--why cut so little?

Posted by: jim hanson | February 26, 2013 9:59 AM    Report this comment

Debunking The Myth That Sequester Cuts Will Cause Flight Delays

Take the claim that cutting back on flight controllers will lead to massive delays.

Back in 2000, the FAA handled 23% more air traffic with fewer flight controllers than it employs today, according to the Department of Transportation's own inspector general, who added this raises "questions about the efficiency of FAA's current controller workforce."

Either air traffic controllers have gotten far less efficient over the past 13 years, or the FAA could get by with about 3,400 fewer of them — without affecting the quality of air travel one bit. Cutting out those excess controllers would get LaHood more than halfway to the $600 million he has to cut from the FAA's budget.

And while LaHood ominously talks about closing 100 control towers, what he doesn't say is that these towers should have been closed long ago.

In fact, Bloomberg News reports the FAA itself identified more than 100 "zombie towers" that handle so few flights they should be cut back or closed. news.investors.com

Posted by: Robert Colby | February 26, 2013 10:29 AM    Report this comment

Ooh! Then we can cut back on double-shifts at towers and make 'em work longer hours! Oh, wait. Wasn't there a problem of sole overworked controllers falling asleep? And then there was Comair 5191 where the sole controller wasn't looking outside as he was busy doing administrative things.

Oh well, you can always blame it on the pilot . . . .

Posted by: David Rosing | February 26, 2013 12:17 PM    Report this comment

LAWMAKERS AND UNIONS NEED TO STAND DOWN AND SUPPORT CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF OVERSTAFFING IN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL FACILITIES

by Joe Del Balzo on November 13, 2012

ARTICLE: Zombie Towers Live as Taxpayers Fund Flightless Skies

jdasolutions.aero/blog

Posted by: Robert Colby | February 26, 2013 1:56 PM    Report this comment

To whoever wrote " In late December, we got the biggest tax increase in the history of our republic", that is simply incorrect. Not just a little incorrect, but a downright lie, in fact.

Posted by: JOHN KALLEND | February 26, 2013 3:12 PM    Report this comment

I'm with Paul. I'm pissed too. The dimwits in goverment have totaly destroyed the economy and our prosperity. For a lot of us our saleries have declined and we an't afford to fly anymore and I for one, blame them. I hate to be pessimistic but the USA is done. Closing airports is the least of the problems.

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | February 26, 2013 9:02 PM    Report this comment

Most of our airports, with the exception of a score or so that take heavy jet traffic, don't have towers. It works fine. Tony Rees, Perth, Australia

Posted by: Tony Rees | February 27, 2013 4:10 AM    Report this comment

If we can all agree to put aside the partisan ideology it might help the dialogue. I think that is what has brought this whole issue to a head. Albeit a self imposed impasse. We, as obviously concerned citizens should shout these ideas and insights from the rooftops. I dare say if Paul Revere was alive today he would see a clear and present danger to our country as a whole. The boogeyman approach is just so much BS and should be treated as such. Does anyone remember when the Dem's controlled the entire government for the first 2 years of Obamas first term. I am waiting for someone to explain that little omission in this discussion.

Posted by: john mclean | February 27, 2013 5:48 AM    Report this comment

Excuse me, I forgot we got the "Affordable Health Care Act". This from the same system that brought us SSI, Medicare and Medicaid. I'm still fuming over "you have to pass it to see what's in it". Sad but true we really have gotten that apathetic about participating in our representative form of government. As Ben Franklin said "They gave us a Republic if we can keep it". BLUE SKIES, watch out it doesn't fall on us.

Posted by: john mclean | February 27, 2013 5:54 AM    Report this comment

The chart of government expenditures has been trotted out as exhibit 1 to support the statement that "we don't have a spending problem". The only problem is that the federal government does not account for expenditures like any other entity. For example TARP money loaned in 2008 was treated as an expenditure and the repayments in 2009 and and since have been treated as revenue. This shifting of expenses forward and revenues backward is largely responsible for the "flattening" of the spending curve referenced above, and acted as camouflage for increased expenditures since. The simple fact of the matter is that as a percentage of GDP we are at the highest levels of spending at both the federal and combined federal, state, and local levels that we we have seen since World War II. It's time to cut back on both "discretionary" and "entitlements" spending (according to the constitution and verified by Supreme Court rulings, only federal debt repayments are non-discretionary)

As to closing towers, there is absolutely no reason why tower functionality can't be consolidated into regional centers and use remote video, sensors, and radar to manage flights into and out of airports. This type of consolidation has been carried out in just about every industry that I can think of, with the exception of government entities.

Posted by: PHIL RYDER | February 27, 2013 9:24 AM    Report this comment

I loved the comment on the F-35. As someone in the know about this thing its a waste. Each time the aircraft performance fails to meet requirements we rewrite the requirements and claim another testing cycle good. The mfr is not held respnsible for cost or time overruns and the government pays for everything. I am a pilot, and I have worked in aviation my entire life (mostly military related). Having always worked in or with the government I can tell you, no one cares about costs. When it comes to saving money that is the last thing on anyones mind in defense spending. I think the sequester should go through. It will hurt some people (myself included), but we can see the politicians on both side are not serious about fiscal responsibility. Closing towers that were created in an effort to inject federal money and jobs into a district should be a positive step forward. If I am willing to take a big hit to my financial situation to get our country to be fiscally responsible then I do not care to hear excuses about how it will hurt anyone else. This whole take it from them not from me mentality is part of the problem. My last point I will pose as a couple of questions. How is it that programs (entitlements) that did not exist 100 years ago are now the largest expenditure and the things pushing the country to bankruptcy? Does anyone truly think the founders intended the government to provide for or exert that much control over the people?

Posted by: Lorren Leadmon | February 27, 2013 11:07 AM    Report this comment

Oh horrors, we have to cut a sliver off the budget. It's about time, I say. Of course the powers that be will try to cut the most impactful thing so that their agency's funding will be restored when services are missed. Pretty much the opposite of what a for-profit company would do if they had to tighten the belt. I've flown single-engine, propeller airplanes into many of these airports some years ago. More recently I've been the F.O. on a turbine freighter or turbine air ambo into some of these. Frankly it's convenient to have a tower answer the radio for a clearance or to have someone automatically close one's IFR flight plan. But a lot of these towers close at night when the freight moves, so we're using other methods anyway. Whatever. Cut the budget. But, the general public is gonna be scared, so they probably won't cut it.

Posted by: Timothy Holloway | February 27, 2013 11:38 AM    Report this comment

Baffled. Dumbstruck. Befuddled. Nonplussed. All words that described my thoughts when I saw the list of proposed tower closures(on the USA Today link referenced in Paul's article) and did NOT find my hometown tower on the list. I love those controllers and don't wish job loss on them, but that is one sleepy airport. Why in the world would my small city airport not be threatened with tower closure while many larger cities are on the chopping block? My guess is that the larger the city, the greater the ability to scare more people, and therefore more pressure on politicians to end the sequester. I suppose another possibility is that the reporter who put the list together was not savvy enough to check the "non-federal" towers (which describes the tower here at home). Maybe our tower really is in trouble but I won't find it out from the brilliant editorial staff at USA Today.

Posted by: wes kautzmann | February 27, 2013 12:22 PM    Report this comment

Here's another take on it from the Washington Post.

www.snipurl.com/26hqvg6

I don't doubt we're going to see some effects from these cuts, if they go to the full depth. But the point I was trying to make is that you can't cut budget and expect no impacts on service.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 27, 2013 1:38 PM    Report this comment

All these points and arguments are like chaff. No real solutions will occur, and the can kicking will continue in order to keep feeding all the bubbles -- there are many.

Yes, the whole construct will eventually fall; it's the nature of such things. It won't be pretty.

The best that can be done for now is the occasional meat cleaver. Swing away!

Posted by: S. Lanchester | February 27, 2013 2:31 PM    Report this comment

As a long time, but now retired, gov't employee (State level), I can attest to waste, doing things just b/c policy dictated it must be done, etc. Then one day someone sends out a memo essentially saying "never mind" & we stop doing whatever it was that "was" so critical in the past, but incredibly life continued on, virtually unchanged! Hopefully the agency makes wise (read NOT politically motivated) cuts that reduce spending w/o unnecessary negative impacts on aviation. (Well, it's a nice thought, anyhow!)

Posted by: John Costello | February 27, 2013 2:42 PM    Report this comment

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi at the Aero Club of Washington Wednesday, February 27, 2013 "FAA and contract tower closures will greatly affect general aviation, rural communities, private enterprises" www.natca.org

"If air traffic control and airport security really are the models of government efficiency that anyone who has ever traveled knows they are not, perhaps Homeland Security could begin by targeting some of the programs identified by Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn this week. These include necessities such as grants for a security conference in San Diego that featured "zombie apocalypse training" or funds for towns like Keene, New Hampshire (pop. 23,000) to purchase armored tank-like vehicles called Bearcats.Seriously." wsj.com

Posted by: Robert Colby | February 27, 2013 3:45 PM    Report this comment

For all of those folks that say “we can’t cut the Federal budget” (that is, if the Dem Senate ever PASSED a budget!).

President Eisenhower reputedly addressed the issue in a no-nonsense way. When he was told that there was no more money to be cut out of the defense budget—he said that he could solve the problem immediately by “Telling every Colonel in the military that he would promote them to General if they could cut their budgets by 10%--I’ll get stampeded after the announcement as they rush off to cut the budget.”

This would work in the rest of the government hierarchy, as well. Give incentives to budget-cutters—penalize those who consistently demand more.

Posted by: jim hanson | February 27, 2013 7:29 PM    Report this comment

How about TSA's LASP program. If dropped entirely that should save lots of money. Better yet how about abolishing DHS and putting the individual agencies that were moved there back to the departments they really belong in. DHS has done nothing but waste money from the start, including the hassles they have created for general aviation. Get rid of the Washington DC flight rules area and the any reduction in ATC won't matter. Can't wait for the cuts to begin!

Posted by: matthew wagner | February 27, 2013 7:36 PM    Report this comment

"... PATCO lives!!!"

... heh ... heh ... heh ... I couldn't resist, sorry ...

Posted by: Phil Derosier | February 28, 2013 6:17 AM    Report this comment

SHOWMANSHIP vs TERRORISM Regardless of his popular mandate (and the $billions spent buying it), Obama is America’s CEO and the office, at any rate, deserves respect. That is, until or unless his extreme politics put citizens in harm’s way.

Giving the FAA a haircut by “trimming” away air traffic controllers and closing tower facilities is anti-societal. Of all the federal programs moved to the public guillotine for our entertainment, closing control towers and furloughing controllers is more than just a few degrees left of violating the public trust.

Yes, it dovetails with Obama’s stated position that GA is an undeserved luxury of the rich. While in fact, it provides the White House with a convenient segway to promote its ongoing message of class warfare.

Homeland Security was launched in 2003 amid a blistering PR campaign aimed at convincing us of the need to be scanned and frisked at airport check-in lines. I’m not going to debate its importance other than to point out the Boss’s decision to highlight how his opposition in Congress is forcing him to compromise national security at our borders, airports, shorelines, public hospitals, etc.

Serendipitously he is advocating raising the minimum wage 20% from $7.25 to $9.00.

Obama’s political theatrics really should be revisited beyond the superficial reviews of Internet media and network talking heads. At a certain point this showmanship becomes terrorism.

Posted by: Richard Herbst | February 28, 2013 12:05 PM    Report this comment

There's nothing sacred about government programs. It is only right that programs and expenditures be subject to scrutiny--and removed if no longer found to be of need. In this case, most pilots agree that there is no need for this many Federal control towers--and if there IS a need for a tower, it can be run more efficiently, safer, and cheaper as a contract tower.

The administration contention that the public will be in danger is an outright lie--meant to stampede the ill-informed.

I've long believed that EVERY government bill and expenditure should have a "sunset" clause--it automatically expires in a few years. It can then be reconsidered--amended--renewed--or simply left to expire.

It is this refusal to face reality that gives us continued outdated laws, regulations, bloated bureaucracy, and outdated procedures. The tower situation is only the symptom of the problem.

Posted by: jim hanson | February 28, 2013 12:48 PM    Report this comment

"Wasn't there a problem of sole overworked controllers falling asleep?"

I remember a story about a lone controller who wasn't able to wake up for the only plane scheduled to arrive on his shift. I also remember stories about controllers whose sleep schedule was continually churned from movements from day to swing to graveyard according to a schedule that has no excuse based on what we know about biorhythms.

The White House is throwing scare stories into the fan hoping it will stick to republicans. The AOPA's Fuller is doing the same thing in his recent responses as he again tosses out the $100 per flight fee to scare everyone, not bothering to mention the proposal was only for turbine operators.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | February 28, 2013 1:39 PM    Report this comment

This just in from AIN (caps for emphasis)--"In a letter sent to affected stakeholders, including AOPA and NBAA, LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta warned that “WE MAY REDUCE THE EFFICIENCY OF THE NATIONAL AIRSPACE TO MAINTAIN THE HIGHEST SAFETY STANDARDS." LaHood said facility shutdowns would begin in April."

Having flown through the aftermath of the ill-considered PATCO strike--this looks like yet another attempt to inflict maximum pain.

"If Congress doesn't give us money, we're going to not only close these underutilized towers--we're going to slow down the airspace system."

Reminds me of the constant French railway strikes.

Posted by: jim hanson | February 28, 2013 2:54 PM    Report this comment

With a 1 trillion $ deficit, this government can't find anyplace to cut $85 billion? The sequester came out of the White house which had 18 months to prepare for it, and now wants to convince us that government is going to shut down. (Even though the budget this year will still be higher than last year) I say--good, bring on more cuts!

Posted by: jerry smyser | February 28, 2013 9:03 PM    Report this comment

If the FAA simply replaced FAA ATC with contract ATC such as Serco we could have the same number of controllers working and save money after the fact. By example SQL has 350 ops per day and PAO has 516 yet SQL gets by with 5 contract ATC and PAO has 14 FAA ATC and per controller, the contract ATC cost less. I'll bet however it will be a cold day in hell before such rational changes are ever even considered. Although I have friends who will be affected by ATC elimination, and I fear for them, I believe you could easily close almost all class D towers and even a lot of class C towers with zero impact on safety or capacity. Some of my ATC friends even agree.

I would offer that with only a few exceptions, most of us in the aviation community would get by without almost all government services just fine.

Posted by: FILL CEE | March 1, 2013 2:57 AM    Report this comment

'The administration contention that the public will be in danger is an outright lie--meant to stampede the ill-informed.'

Right on. Nuthin' new under the sun. Watched Powell, Cheney, Bush and many others repeat that mantra for years....now we're trying to fix all the broken bodies, hearts and minds - and economy - from their insanity and cowardice. And absolutely nothing gained from that lost treasure. Beyond irresponsible - clearly criminal and immoral.

'With a 1 trillion $ deficit, this government can't find anyplace to cut $85 billion?' Get rid of the Pentagon's F-35 program of $400 Billion immediately. Discussion over. Puny $83 Billion sequestration wiped off the table. Warfare today is in terrorism, drones and cyberspace. Nearly half trillion dollars applied to debt. But wait, virtually all the senior Air Force establishment are ex-military pilots....and then there are all the special interest groups...Oh well, never mind.

Sad to see so many here proving Jim Fallows correct. Hope none of you lose your job or prosperity over this obtuse rationalization of incompetency called sequestration from BOTH sides of government.

Posted by: David Miller | March 1, 2013 2:06 PM    Report this comment

Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), in a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget, Feb. 26:

The administration is warning sequestration may force the laying off or furloughing of air traffic controllers, border patrol officers, food inspectors, Transportation Security Administration screeners, or civilians supporting our men and women in combat in Afghanistan. I would suggest the better approach is to consolidate duplicative positions with overlapping responsibilities and nearly identical jobs.

In just the past two years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified more than 1,362 duplicative programs accounting for at least $364.5 billion in federal spending every single year. . . .

During a time of budget cuts, it is irresponsible to pay two or more people to do the same job, while laying off other employees in essential positions performing critical duties. online.wsj.com

Posted by: Robert Colby | March 2, 2013 8:02 AM    Report this comment

I recently retired from one of the Towers on this list (HTS) and can testify that it long has met criteria for midnight shift closure. First, let me mention that many of the towers on the list are already CONTRACT towers and NOT FAA towers.

Let's look at the safety argument being used. For years we worked midnight shifts with one fully qualified controller working all positions (radar and tower) and doing it well. HTS, for example, worked maybe 25 total airport/overflight/satellite operations between 11pm and 6am - and that was years ago when there was more traffic. Now, that total ops count might be 10. A few incidents happen and the FAA suddenly mandates split control positions and at least 2 controllers per midnight shift.

Move forward to 2011 and suddenly the issue of fatigue comes up. Seems working the overnight shift is a bit difficult when you don't get your rest during the day. So, the FAA and the controller's union negotiate 2-hour naps (they call them recuperative breaks) for each controller on a midnight shift. Yep, that's right, we now combine tower and radar functions so that someone can get a nap - that's 4 hours per night. If you are asking yourself about the safety of combined positions, well so did I. *part 1*

Posted by: Gregg Hendry | March 2, 2013 1:25 PM    Report this comment

*part 2*

So, for 4-hours each night, in the interest of safety, we allow controllers to take recuperative breaks while doing what we said is unsafe. Oh, I forgot to mention, the FAA also will allow 30 minutes AFTER the 2-hour break for the controller to become mentally prepared and focused to return to duty. So, that 4-hour timeframe just became 5-hours. Did I also forget to mention that we pay each controller an additional 10% of base pay just to work these shifts? And then the controller-in-charge receives yet another 10% of base pay?

This is just one example of gross government mismanagement of funds and personnel. Multiply this by many of the towers on the list and you will see how much money can be saved every year. Think about that next time you pay for anything from the FAA.

Posted by: Gregg Hendry | March 2, 2013 1:26 PM    Report this comment

part 2 - So, for 4-hours each night, in the interest of safety, we allow controllers to take recuperative breaks while doing what we said is unsafe. Oh, I forgot to mention, the FAA also will allow 30 minutes AFTER the 2-hour break for the controller to become mentally prepared and focused to return to duty. So, that 4-hour timeframe just became 5-hours. Did I also forget to mention that we pay each controller an additional 10% of base pay just to work these shifts? And then the controller-in-charge receives yet another 10% of base pay?

This is just one example of gross government mismanagement of funds and personnel. Multiply this by many of the towers on the list and you will see how much money can be saved every year. Think about that next time you pay for anything from the FAA.

Posted by: Gregg Hendry | March 2, 2013 1:27 PM    Report this comment

here is the high level version of where the cuts are being made. Most of this is designed into the bill and not the result of an executive decision.

www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/legislative_reports/stareport.pdf

as a reminder, the Budget Control Act (page 42, line 13)—requires that sequestration be implemented in exactly the manner prescribed in Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, which requires that across-the-board cuts be applied evenly by “program, project and activity.”

So as the cuts outlined here flow down, they have to be spread out across every activity of the agency - it is in the law.

Posted by: STEVE DUNBAR | March 4, 2013 12:01 PM    Report this comment

Paul: As usual, you are right on point. Other than my home field I routinely operate into and out of non-tower facilities and in never once in more than 35 years of flying have I ever been first party to a safety issue that I had not already recognized and made allowance for. The nauseous fear-mongering that permeates the mainstream media about this is is nothing more than the news equivalent of the disgusting reality TV phenomenon. We spend more than we make and simply can no longer afford it. Let's quit trying to justify our collective stupidity for allowing this situation to develop and call our legislators to do their jobs without the kiddie politics and again guide this country back to the greatness we once knew. An end with pain is better than pain without end.

Posted by: JEFF OWEN | March 6, 2013 1:09 PM    Report this comment

Paul, you must not fly at the same airport I do. My home drome is relatively quiet evenings ( which is way it's a part time contract tower ) but when it is busy, it is BUSY. Multiple planes in the pattern(s), a mixture of bizjet, warbirds, twin engine freight haulers, instrument students and yes, solo students.

This tower is slated to be closed, despite an "average" of 500 operations per day. It is going to be ugly - and in my opinion, dangerous.

This absolutely IS a safety issue, and I am not happy the FAA, for whatever reason, has decided my safety is less important than trimming fat somewhere else in it's budget.

Are there towers where traffic load or mix doesn't justify a tower? Yes. Is the case for 173/200 contract towers? NO.

Keep the left/right politics, finger pointing and echo chamber sound bites out of discussion of a serious safety issue. Thanks.

Posted by: Sarah Anderson | March 8, 2013 12:38 PM    Report this comment

FAA reaches million-dollar settlment over 2008 Continental Airline crash at DIA, attorney says

Suit: Air traffic control didn't warn about gusts

Continental-Airlines-Flight-2008-Crash-1404-Dec.-20-2008

Posted: 03/09/2013

The jetliner crash was blamed on pilot error and a strong crosswind. A 2010 National Transportation Safety Board report said the pilot failed to make the proper rudder adjustments to keep the plane on the runway while dealing with the crosswinds.

Yet, passengers and some crew members who filed the FAA lawsuit also blamed air traffic controllers for failing to inform pilots of crosswinds gusting to 40 mph, Lampert said.

The NTSB report also cited air traffic controllers' failure to provide "key, available" information about the wind as a contributing factor.

"When we got into the case we found out that FAA withheld information regarding the winds from the pilot," Lampert said, adding that an FAA handbook requires air traffic controllers to inform pilots of gusting winds in the "centerfield" of the runway, not just average wind speed where planes land and take off.

"If you've got a 40-knot crosswind, you better tell (pilots) that. They never told them that," Lampert said. "The FAA is really as culpable as the airline for this crash."

www.thedenverchannel.com

Posted by: Robert Colby | March 9, 2013 9:13 AM    Report this comment

"Paul, you must not fly at the same airport I do."

I'm quite certain I don't, unless you fly at Venice, which has no tower or Punta Gorda, which does. No one here is arguing that towers aren't needed anywhere, just that a substantial number number of towers on that list deserve to go. (Including the one at Punta Gorda.)

Maybe yours is not one of them. You didn't name it. But in a budget-constrained world, you've got to make choices and a notable consensus among this group of commenting members has.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 12, 2013 9:11 AM    Report this comment

"Keep the left/right politics, finger pointing and echo chamber sound bites out of discussion of a serious safety issue."

Sorry--the toothpaste is already out of the tube on that subject--it can't be put back in. Like it or not, the reality is that regulations, laws, and expenditures ARE political--you can't ignore that fact, and you can't give serious consideration to the problem without considering the politics that motivated it.

In today's hyper-regulated society, one of the "unintended consequences" is that people are forced to take sides--to support or not support an initiative--to engage lobbiests and lawyers. That's sad--but that's the way it is.

I'd rather have across-the board cuts than no cuts at all. I just wish that individual departments had the freedom to decide WHERE the cuts should be made.

Posted by: jim hanson | March 12, 2013 11:25 AM    Report this comment

"Keep the left/right politics, finger pointing and echo chamber sound bites out of discussion of a serious safety issue."

Sorry--the toothpaste is already out of the tube on that subject--it can't be put back in. Like it or not, the reality is that regulations, laws, and expenditures ARE political--you can't ignore that fact, and you can't give serious consideration to the problem without considering the politics that motivated it.

In today's hyper-regulated society, one of the "unintended consequences" is that people are forced to take sides--to support or not support an initiative--to engage lobbiests and lawyers. That's sad--but that's the way it is.

I'd rather have across-the board cuts than no cuts at all. I just wish that individual departments had the freedom to decide WHERE the cuts should be made.

Posted by: jim hanson | March 12, 2013 11:26 AM    Report this comment

We shouldn't be talking about whether or not to close towers (there are some that SHOULD be closed) but instead about where USERS of the system (like pilots and mechanics) think cuts can be made.

This from AOPA E-brief today--"“The expanded use of the driver’s license medical for pilots, online aircraft registration, streamlining the CFI renewal process, and outsourcing the work of the FAA Safety Team are just a few of the recommendations AOPA has championed in recent years,” Fuller noted. "

It's a start--where would YOU like to see the FAA save money? Perhaps Paul could open this in a seperate thread--if is like most of his threads, it's bound to elicit lots of responses!

Posted by: jim hanson | March 12, 2013 11:50 AM    Report this comment

So according to this reporter we will have to use "instrument landing systems" at non towered airports. Holy cow. I've been doing it all wrong when flying night VFR!

Gary, IN airport won't contest FAA tower closing 3/11/2013

"The Gary airport is currently the only one in Northwest Indiana with a control tower. When it is closed at night, planes use instrument landing systems." www.nwitimes.com

Posted by: Robert Colby | March 12, 2013 2:10 PM    Report this comment

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