...FAA Staffing Preferred By Politician
What has always made the privatization legislation unusual is that it exempted two VFR towers in Alaska. Fingers immediately pointed at Rep. Don Young, who, as a representative of that state, is also the chairman of the powerful Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which incorporates the Aviation Subcommittee. Young did little to dispel accusations that he'd cut a side deal to maintain FAA service in Alaska when he appeared on a television show last week. In an interview on a show hosted by the American Association of Airport Executives, Young appeared to cite his own personal safety as justification for exempting Merrill Field, in Anchorage, from the privatization clause. Young failed to return AVweb's request for comment prior to publication. However, Young told the interviewer that the airspace around Merrill Field is complex, with heavy military traffic from a nearby Air Force Base, airliners on their way to and from the international airport and floatplanes using Lake Hood. "We decided at that time to leave it as it is (under FAA staffing) until we can find out there's a better way to do it," he said in the broadcast. He said the top-floor hotel room he normally occupies when he's in Anchorage is on the departure path from Merrill Field. "... Every morning I look out and there's one coming right at me. It's an interesting experience and I want to make sure everything is done right in that field." NATCA was buoyed by Young's assessment. "We are pleased to see that Chairman Young continues to uphold the position that only FAA-controlled towers should be in charge of the complex airspace around his home district," said NATCA spokesman Doug Church. "We would add that the airspace around the other 69 towers on the White House chopping block is also highly complex and should continue to be handled by federal controllers as well."