by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
A trio of airports are suing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over its plans to close air traffic control towers because of the sequester.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said that it will begin to close 149 air traffic control towers this month because across-the-board budget reductions require spending cuts of $600 million.
Airports in Bloomington, Ill., Spokane, Wash., and Ormond Beach, Fla. that were on the FAA’s list have filed lawsuits in the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit to prevent the closures from occurring on April 7.
The lawsuits, which were filed separately before being combined, allege the FAA has not properly studied the safety impacts of the air traffic control closures.
The agency contends the closures will focus on air traffic control facilities where it contracts with private companies to monitor flights.
The FAA originally said, before the sequester was implemented, that it would have to close 189 flight towers.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has insisted that the closures would not impact passenger safety.
“We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports,” Huerta said in a statement when the closures were first announced.
The airports in Illinois, Washington and Florida were not willing to take the agency’s word that there would be no impact.
“The Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority is committed to a solution that will ensure the air traffic control services at [Central Illinois Regional Airport] will continue with or without FAA funding in place,” Airport Authority Chairman Paul Harmon said in a statement.
“We want to reassure our customers that CIRA will continue to be a safe and effective airport and will remain open for their travel needs.”
The lawsuits follow an announcement by the state of Texas last week that it would pay to keep open 13 airports that had been targeted for closing by the FAA.
Congressional Republicans have accused the FAA of trying to score political points by choosing to make cuts that would have a negative impact on airline passengers.
But the FAA says the sequester mandates it to make equal cuts across its budget. Federal agencies are required to cut about 9 percent of their total 2013 spending under the law.