Save Waukesha County Airport Traffic Control Tower
The air traffic control tower could be cut as the federal government attempts to reduce 5 percent of expenses. But how will that affect the third busiest airport in Wisconsin?
Editor's Note: The following letter to the editor was submitted by Waukesha County Supervisor Michael Crowley.
There is the potential of the air traffic control tower closure here at Waukesha County Airport/Crites Field because of federal budget cuts that may take effect due to the requirement for federal agencies to cut about 5 percent from their overall budgets.
Since Congress and the President were unable to reach a different deal before the sequester deadline, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has informed us this week that they may close the tower here at Waukesha County Airport/Crites Field that is operated by Midwest ATC Services, Inc. Although the FAA did not specify the date when the tower would close, we have learned through Midwest ATC that the closure would be effective April 7. According to public reports, ours is one of 173 towers scheduled to be closed, which constitute nearly 40 percent of all towers in the United States.
Obviously, we are very concerned about the impact this could have on service to the Southeastern Wisconsin Region and our aviation community. We do not believe that closing the towers is in the best interest of aviation and public safety.
We must aggressively communicate to our federal government to keep the towers open and make other budget cuts instead, which would not pose a risk to public safety.
Department of Transportation/FAA Budget Cut Choices:
- The FAA's response to sequestration is to cut 75 percent of the Federal Contract Tower Program - one of the most cost effective and safe programs in federal history - while the remainder of the FAA in its entirety will see only a 5 percent reduction.
- The typical FAA tower costs 3.77 times as much to operate as a comparable contract tower.
- FAA towers have 3.66 times the rate of operational errors, 3.69 times the rate of operational deviations, and 2.08 times the rate of runway incursions compared to contract towers.
- We believe closing these air traffic control towers will significantly impact the safety of our national airport and airspace system. There are certainly other cuts that could be made in the federal budget that would not affect public safety.
Impact on Waukesha County Airport Aviation:
- The FAA has notified us that it will be closing our tower on April 7, 2013, due to budget sequestration cuts. It has determined that "lower traffic" airports should bear the burden of most of its budget cuts.
- While we recognize that our airport is not as busy as Chicago O'Hare, we believe that closing our tower could jeopardize aviation safety and efficiency for the 200 aircraft based at Waukesha County Airport, which conduct 55,000 takeoffs and landings here each year.
- Waukesha County Airport is the ONLY nationally-designated airport in the State of Wisconsin and contributes significantly to national aviation and airport priorities.
- It is the third busiest airport in Wisconsin and busiest general aviation airport in the state. More than 50 businesses use Waukesha County Airport on a regular basis.
- A significant reduction in traffic caused the the loss of the tower would directly affect our ability to fund critical airport runway and taxiway improvements.
- Waukesha County Airport contributes $80 million dollars to the local economy every year.
- In addition to the air traffic controllers, the effects of these cuts will be felt by general aviation pilots, airport businesses, corporate travelers, and our network of hundreds of local and national businesses who rely on the reliable and safe service provided by the controllers.
- Our elected legislators, the DOT and FAA must work harder to find other savings before shutting down almost 40 percent of all control towers nationwide.
The loss of the control tower at Waukesha County Airport will mean a significant reduction in quality service to our corporate and recreational pilots. Aviation and public safety must not be compromised. Please consider joining us in opposition to the proposed tower closure, specifically Waukesha County Airport/Crites Field, and contact your U.S. Senators and Congressman this week. Most importantly, I encourage you to submit comments against this potential closure to the FAA before March 13th at ClosureComments@faa.gov
Michael A. Crowley
Chairman - Waukesha County Airport Operations Commission
Waukesha County Board Supervisor, District 16