Unless action is taken by Congress in the next few weeks, budget cuts that result from the much talked about sequestration may have a devastating effect on the National Airspace System, the FAA is warning. On April 7, the agency could close as many as 238 control towers around the country, including some at busy airports including Santa Monica, California (SMO), Arlington, Texas (GKY), Frederick, Maryland (FDK), and Space Coast Regional (TIX) in Titusville, Florida.
According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the FAA will need to cut $492.9 million from operations, $142.4 million from facilities and equipment and $8.6 million from research, engineering and development in the fiscal year 2013 budget. And since several months of this fiscal year have already passed, extreme measures are being considered. In addition to the tower closures, the FAA might cut night operations at 60 additional towers, reduce maintenance and support for equipment within the NAS and furlough FAA employees for one or two days each pay period.
As a result of the reduction in services, the FAA estimates that delays of up to 90 minutes are likely during peak hours at busy airports in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. NATCA believes these estimates could be conservative if full implementation of the suggested cuts and furloughs is realized.
The news comes as the FAA released its most recent air traffic forecast, which indicates a continuous increase in the number of commercial and general aviation operations in the next 20 years.