Air traffic control tower cuts to be unveiled Friday

The Federal Aviation Administration is to announce on Friday which air traffic control towers will be closed because of $85 billion in mandatory federal spending cuts.

Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, which averages one flight operation every three minutes in summer, is among the control towers that could be closed under the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.

The targeted airports are part of the FAA's contract tower program, which uses controllers who work for private companies instead of the FAA. There are 189 such airports across the country.

David Grizzle, chief operating officer of the FAA Air Traffic Organization, said in a statement that a "large number" of responses from control tower managers at airports on the possible closure list prompted the FAA to delay its decision from Monday to Friday.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced during a news conference at a Hartford-area airport Monday that he and eight other senators were sponsoring legislation to continue FAA funding for the contract tower program for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends in September. The funds would come from moving $50 million from the FAA's research and capital budget to its general operations account.

Blumenthal, with co-sponsor Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), called the possibility of closing contract towers "irresponsible" and said the cuts would "put the flying public at risk . . . "

Gabreski Airport manager Anthony Ceglio said the bill provided "a very slight ray of hope" of avoiding closings. Without the air traffic controllers, pilots using Gabreski must announce their position and movements on a common radio frequency.

With 90,000 flight operations a year at Gabreski, "there are going to be planes up in the air flying by themselves and it's going to cause delays," he said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Newsday on social media

@Newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday