FAA closing 148 regional control towers. How long before the first crash?

This seems like a really bad idea. We have two regional airports in Arkansas affected by the control tower closings. 149 across the country.

It’s only a matter of time and there will be fatalities. The first blood spilt thanks to sequestration.

TXK (my hometown airport, as it happens) ain’t O’Hare. There are only 80 operations each day, and only eight of those involve commercial service. Just because a rural crossroads doesn’t have a traffic light doesn’t mean it’s destined to become a scene of carnage. In fact, drivers become much more cautious when traffic controls are removed. So pilots landing at TXK will now look twice then line up their approach, instead of radioing in and looking around as a sort of backup.

pilots aren’t just going to pray and zoom in. they will call out on the radio to find other traffic to the same air port.

Portland-Troutdale airport (TTD) east of PDX loses its FAA regional control tower. It’s gonna be real interesting because …

(Bolding mine.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portland-Troutdale_Airport

TTD is also a tanker base so if we have a hot summer in the Northwest, we could have some real fun.

If I understand correctly this will be an interim measure…no?

Why not use military ATC’s at these towers?

I doubt if there are enough surplus military controllers to crew 148 towers.

I normally fly out of GKY, which is slated to close its tower. Since this is the field adjacent to Cowboy’s Stadium, I’m betting some backroom arm twisting is happening, and the closing might end up being reduced hours.
Funny anecdote: Two nights ago I was entering the runup area with an instrument student. It was crowded and I radioed ground control to ask the twin next to me if he had room to get around. A familiar voice came over the headset “Daaad. I can get around.” It was my son in the adjacent plane. I could almost hear his eyes rolling. When I explained to the lady controller that my son and I instruct at the same field, she keyed the mic and said: “Awwww.” I maintain it’s a god-given right of parents to embarrass our kids. :wink:

Do all intersections of streets require traffic lights or are stop signs adequate for low traffic areas with good line-of-sight?

There have been procedures for pilots to handle approaching airports on their own since before the first control tower was ever opened.

Gary Regional Airport here in Indiana has long had a control tower for political rather than safety reasons. The traffic level is low enough it’s not really necessary, and I base that statement on having been a pilot in the area for 14 years and having actually been based at Gary for a couple months at one point. I also live less than 10 miles from Gary airport. I’ve never seen/heard traffic levels that really justified having a tower there. I feel bad for the tower guys losing their jobs - I actually know a couple of them a bit - but if you’re going to cut costs I can’t fault the logic there. I don’t anticipate any crashes whatsoever as a result of shutting that tower.

Likewise, the other 149 towers affected by this are supposed to be at equally low-traffic airports that don’t really need towers, however much the public are falsely comforted by the presence of air traffic controllers.

If anything, I’m more concerned about the controllers at Chicago O’Hare getting forced furlough days. That will lead to flight delays. Again, I don’t anticipate this being a safety issue but it may well have an economic impact in my area, not to mention the uptick in whining passengers.

Many of these airports don’t need towers. However, many of them do. Waukegan Regional had a midair a few years back, and that was while the tower was operating. As with most things in life, the list is less about necessity and more about who has the best lobbyists. Of the 149 towers closing, zero are operated by government employees, and 149 are operated by contractors. There are plenty of airports with less traffic volume that are retaining their tower controllers. It’s really a stupid way to do business, and people’s lives actually do hang in the balance.

From what I recall of the Waukegan mid-air, though, it had nothing to do with ATC at that airport. Even under ATC pilots still have an obligation to see and avoid other aircraft and the pilots in that instance failed to do so while approaching the airport.

That said, I agree Waukeegan has a fair amount of traffic, at least it did when I was flying that area I can see where closing that tower or not is worth some discussion.

Most airports in the U.S. do not have control towers. This has always been the case, and pilots have always been trained for it. The closings are regrettable, but not a big deal.

It might get interesting around fire season at WJF and SDM when the tankers are thrown into the mix with the GA aircraft.

Actually it is a bit of a bigger deal then most people would think. Maybe not in air traffic safety, but in my job it will be. There will be more work created and less time for us to do it now. There will be bigger NFDDs every day, all of the people who create the charts, me being one of them, will have to review the work and decide what might need to be changed. Depending on how it’s worded the work would need to be redone when/if the tower gets reopened. That’s going to put charts 6 months out of date and might cause a lot of confusion.

This whole thing is going to have a nice big ripple effect that a lot of people are not going to notice right away.

Grimes Field is a small airport located a few miles north of Urbana, Ohio. They also have a small restaurant.

Yesterday evening we went to the restaurant for dinner. While we were eating we watched two single-engine planes takeoff. And a couple landed. During this time, no one was in the controller office, which is located in the same building as the restaurant. :dubious:

There are so many other areas of government that could be trimmed. Just cutting a tiny bit of wasted spending could keep the FAA’s budget intact.

This is like not buying new tires for a old car. They are nearly bald and been patched three times. But I want to enjoy Pizza Hut and Outback for dinner this week. Next week theres a new movie I just have to see. So the tires can wait.

You need to budget for priorities first. Then budget whats left for the frills.

Well, I’m speaking from an air safety POV, although I don’t wish to give the impression there is zero chance of impact (heh) there either.

But I don’t follow how this makes your life more difficult as a chart maker at TERPS or wherever. Are you saying it’s the cuts in general that affect you as well as the towers?

I don’t work in TERPS, though I know a number of the people that do. I also was in the IAP charting section, now I make visual charts. When a tower closes it’s my job to read the NFDD for the closure, then apply the changes to the chart. Next the reviewer has to go over the work. A lot of changes get made, on the charts, the tabulations, the databases. There’s also a few different charts that get changed. I would say each change involves 4-5 different people, if not more. I’m not sure what will happen if they close the tower then open it back up later this year.

We are being hit with furloughs as well. We are all being furloughed one day a pay period so less time to do the extra work.

I’m not a pilot so I don’t know much about safety. What I do know is that all these little changes are going to create a lot more work, probably costing more money then they want to save. So yes, the cuts to just the towers are going to affect a lot more then just the towers.

Most of the closures seem to be at Class D airports. Do you know if they intend to re-draw that aitspace as E or G, or keep it charted as D but with new (re: nonexistent) tower hours?

Honestly I haven’t looked much at the closures. I do know that Frederick and Hagerstown, both in Maryland north of DC, at being closed. Both have sections in the tabulations. I really don’t know what will happen with the airspace, that’s done by another section, we put it on the charts.

Wow, a quick check in Maryland shows a total of 4 on the Baltimore-Washington TAC. Easton/Newnam, Frederick, Hagerstown, Martin State. I’ll have to check my charts at work to know what they might change. I just happen to have the TAC sitting here.

I do know that the Frederick Muni tower is only a year or so old. They have expanded the airport to hopefully bring in more commercial airlines. This might really change their plans.

Would you all please look up operations at uncontrolled airports before becoming alarmed?

People were flying planes decades before radios became light enough to be carried aloft.

There are still common radio frequencies see: CTAF (I forget the name for general chat).

And - guess where small planes get routed around big airplanes: right down the middle of the runway. I’ll let you figure out why that’s the safest place for them.
Once you figure that out, come back and freak out about the possibility of the 2 airplanes/day landing there will manage to hit each other.

This is the group which freaked out to learn that the pilot in a J-3 (and a dozen other types) cannot see forward until going 30-40 mph.

This is why you [strike out]twits[/strike out] brilliant conceptualists are never going to get a flying car

I don’t think calling people ‘twits’ is productive.

Ramona (CA) tower was built in 1995 after a couple of forest service aircraft collided. (Note: I thought it was at Brown, so that’s why I mentioned it before. A brief search shows it was Ramona.) Thousands of pilots fly into and out of [del]out-of-control[/del] uncontrolled airports all the time. Ones who operate out of controlled fields routinely fly to uncontrolled ones. I daresay that the number of pilots who wold be adversely affected, flying VFR, anyway – by tower closures is very small.

Still, seasonal operations such as firefighting increases the normal amount of traffic; and that traffic tends to be faster than the local pilots are used to. In that case, a tower is a good thing to have. (Maybe there can be temporary towers during the fire season.)

Even with a tower, operations can be a little chaotic. When I managed to afford to get back into the air a year and a half ago, I and other aircraft were made to abort landings or modify our patterns because of conflicting aircraft in the area. For example, a regional carrier was landing downwind on the ILS runway instead of landing with everyone else. Another time aircraft were cleared to pass by both ends of the runway on their way to somewhere else, and a couple of us in the pattern had to make 360º turns on downwind to let them pass. A couple of times I and other aircraft were instructed to make an immediate turn because the tower had cleared other aircraft to cross. I don’t know if the tower controller’s head was up-and-locked, or if they just let people fly where they want in the ATA, or what. I’ve never seen that sort of thing at other airports.

Fortunately, this particular tower is not being closed. Sometimes the pattern gets busy, and it really helps to have an extra set of eyes out there. Someone who is not used to operating at uncontrolled airports might have a bit of rust on his skills.

I don’t expect an epidemic of collisions. I think most pilots will adapt. But it won’t surprise me in the least if more than a few planes bump into each other.