May 8, 2013

FAA drops plan to reduce Bangor air controller shifts

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration has dropped its plan to eliminate overnight air traffic controller shifts at Bangor International Airport, officials said Wednesday.

The FAA said previously that it might close about 60 towers across the nation during late-night hours as it sought to trim $600 million as required under the across-the-board federal budget cuts that began March 1. More than 100 other towers at smaller airports might be closed.

On Wednesday, members of Maine's congressional delegation announced that the FAA will continue to operate 24-hour air traffic control at Bangor International Airport.

In the event of a closure, air traffic control for the airspace monitored in Bangor would have been handled by controllers in Boston.

The FAA's change of plans came about a week after President Obama signed a bill authorizing the agency to reallocate as much as $253 million to avoid furloughs of air traffic controllers that had been causing flight delays across the country.

It remained unclear at the time whether the agency would also maintain round-the-clock coverage at airports such as Bangor.

"We are tremendously pleased that the FAA has decided not to eliminate the overnight shift at BIA," said Maine's senators. Susan Collins and Angus King and representatives. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree in a joint statement on Wednesday. "Given the national significance of Bangor's airport to both civilian and military aviation, maintaining those hours ... is in the best interest of the flying public and ensures that our servicemen and women can continue their national security missions without being placed at unnecessary risk."

Previously, the delegation expressed concerns about how eliminating overnight air traffic controller shifts would affect commercial and military flights into Bangor.

In addition to commercial carriers, planes carrying military personnel to and from deployments overseas pass through Bangor at all hours because it is the first or last "port of entry" offering 24-hour U.S. Customs and Immigration services.

The Maine Air National Guard's 101st Air Refueling Wing also operates out of the airport, and international flights diverted because of mechanical problems or mid-flight emergencies are often routed to Bangor.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

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