Politics

April 24, 2013

FAA urged to call back controllers amid flight delays

Republicans say the FAA should have made less impactful cuts, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, calls the situation 'a manufactured crisis.'

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Lauren Messner of New York City waits for her delayed flight home at the Portland International Jetport in Portland Monday afternoon on April 22, 2013. Messner, originally from Portland, was told when she checked-in that her flight was delayed for one hour due to the air-traffic controller cutbacks.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Nick Repenning of Whitefield checks the flight screen to see if a flight is on time at the Portland International Jetport in Portland Monday afternoon on April 22, 2013.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

Gregory "Sid" McGuirk, an associate professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida who worked for 35 years as an air traffic controller or in FAA supervisory positions, said he did not want to weigh in on the politics of sequestration or the FAA's decision.

In his 10 years at FAA headquarters, McGuirk said, he learned that people will second-guess any decision. But he said FAA officials evidently believe that the furloughs are necessary, and to operate in a system "degraded" by less staffing, they must put more space between planes for safety.

"They are going to err on the side of caution," McGuirk said. "And that's the right thing to do."

Various efforts are under way in Washington to address the issue.

On Friday, three major groups representing the industry -- Airlines for America, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Regional Airline Association -- sued in federal court in Washington to halt the furloughs. A judge declined immediate action but will consider the case.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that he plans to introduce a measure to blunt all of the sequestration cuts -- not just those in the FAA -- by reappropriating money saved by the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., urged the Obama administration to delay the furloughs and use $50 million in unused research funds in the FAA to keep open 149 air traffic control towers at smaller airports that are scheduled for closure in mid-June. Legislation to authorize the transfer has picked up support from more than 30 senators.

In Portland, Bradbury noted that one of Tuesday's canceled flights to New York's LaGuardia Airport had been added to the schedule just last week. He said airlines and airports have few options to mitigate the delays because flight schedules are largely dictated by demand.

Obviously angry with decisions in Washington that ripple down to his and other airports, Bradbury said he believes there must be a better way than across-the-board spending cuts.

"A more thoughtful approach would be much appreciated," he said.

 

-- Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.

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

kmiller@mainetoday.com

On Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

 

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