Towers: Talk to Your Neighbor
Over the weekend, I was searching for my better nature and tried to restrain myself from commenting one more time on the FAA's tower closure plan (PDF), which was announced Friday. But having read the list and watched the unfolding coverage of this fiasco, I find that… I just can't stand it.
Not the list itself, which I think is a reasonably rational first cut at chiseling some unnecessary expenditures out of the FAA budget, sequestration or not. More on that in a moment. First, kudos to AVweb readers who took our survey and found time to comment. You can read the story summary here along with some of the comments. In general, on both sides of the issue, I found reader comments to reflect a realistic understanding of the risk involved in operating with or without a tower. But I'll admit to being pulled up short on one of the questions. I thought most pilots would accept that a control tower is at least an incremental addition to the safety net and that it's convenient to have one, if not necessary. I got straightened out on that: Many don't think that at all, as you'll see in the comments.
What really made me want to slit my wrists was the daily press coverage of this story, culminating in one of the sillier comments I've heard from an aviation professional. One Mark Hanna, director of the Abraham Lincoln Airport in bustling Springfield, Illinois, told the local media that without controllers, the risk "goes up exponentially." This bit of nonsense got picked up by the wires and appeared in literally dozens of stories read by the freckle-necked masses. Just to refresh, exponential growth is doubling over a specified time. So if a single day is our unit, by the end of 10 days, the risk is a thousand times greater and by the end of month, you won't even leave the house. You'll be dead in bed. Perhaps with the rest of the planet.
So I implore you, if your neighbor or a co-worker asks about this tower closing thing, give them a calm, thoroughgoing explanation of how all this works. Even if you oppose all the tower closings, including the ones in the sleepiest little muni fields, is there any among us who would believe that without control towers to "guide us to a landing," it will suddenly be raining Bonanzas and Skyhawks? Tell them the truth, please, pointing out that those very same airplanes languish in hangars far more than they used to, such that many tower operators could snooze all day and not be missed.
That's not to say some of the towers on that list shouldn't be closed. What, maybe a dozen of them have enough mixed traffic and training to justify a tower? Maybe a second cut will take a closer look at that, if it's necessary. And there were a couple of shockers on the list, including Oshkosh, which most of us know as the busiest airport in the world for a crowded week in July. On the other hand, have you ever been into OSH in January? Graveyards are livelier.
Meanwhile, you know what to do. It's pretty simple, really. Just look out the window when you fly and try to play nice.
And by the way, if you're a Center or TRACON controller, we're not ignoring you. We just haven't got that far yet. Drop me a line here if you'd like to comment privately and for background on cutback effects at those facilities.