February 23, 2013

Budget cuts may affect air traffic night shifts

Two regional airports – in Bangor and in Manchester, N.H. – could see reduced staffing if a budget impasse forces federal regulators to trim spending.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

A KC-135 refueling tanker takes off at Bangor International Airport in 2003 as other refueling planes and transport planes sit below the airport control tower.

John Patriquin / Staff File Photo

Travelers nationwide would likely feel the pinch. Officials said that, to maintain safety with fewer controllers working, they would likely "reduce the efficiency of the national airspace."

That's FAA-speak for allowing fewer planes into an airspace at any given time, likely causing longer waits on the tarmac and more circling before landings.

"As a consequence of employee furloughs and prolonged equipment outages resulting from lower parts inventories and fewer technicians, travelers should expect delays," wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Huerta in the letter. "Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we will have fewer controllers on staff."

Delays at those major airports would ripple throughout the network, LaHood warned in a news conference Friday.

Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the labor union representing controllers, said the proposed cuts would protect safety "at the expense of operations across the country."

Once towers are shut down, Rinaldi said, the airports may be next to disappear.

"Every one of these actions by the FAA will have an impact far beyond inconveniencing travelers," Rinaldi said in a prepared statement. "Local economies will be diminished, military exercises will be canceled and jobs will be lost. There's no telling how long these effects will be felt because many of these service reductions may not be reversed."

Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

On Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

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