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"Ventura County appeals to FAA to keep airport control towers open"



Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ventura County appeals to FAA to keep airport control towers open
By Cheri Carlson        
The Ventura County (CA) Star

  
Ventura County officials have appealed the potential closure of two air
traffic control towers, saying the move could jeopardize safety and the
local economy.

The Federal Aviation Administration last month included control towers at
the Camarillo and Oxnard airports on a list of nearly 240 scheduled to close
under federal budget cuts. The agency must cut $637 million over the rest of
the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, because of sequestration.

Airports had until March 13 to submit arguments against closure. A final
decision was expected Monday, but FAA officials postponed the announcement
to Friday, saying they received an overwhelming number of appeals.

"We're trying to send a message to the FAA that we value our control towers.
We value their operations ... and their promotion of safety in our area,"
said Todd McNamee, director of Ventura County airports. "We're sort of
pulling out all the stops trying to keep our towers open."

In a letter dated March 12, McNamee listed possible effects of losing the
Camarillo and Oxnard control towers, as well as others in the area.

Without controllers, pilots watch out for other aircraft themselves and
announce their positions over the radio during approaches, landings and
takeoffs. Hundreds of small U.S. airports operate without controllers,
including one in Santa Paula.

But airport officials say shuttering the towers may cause problems in the
air and on runways. The busier the airport, the greater the need for air
traffic controllers.

"Closing the towers will make the aviation industry less safe, inefficient
and therefore less inviting to new pilots and cripple the future of the
industry," McNamee wrote in his letter to the FAA.

The Camarillo and Oxnard airports share air space with the naval air station
at Point Mugu. The loss of controllers would disrupt coordination of planes
flying into and out of the area and likely increase Point Mugu's workload,
the letter states.

The move also could hurt business, McNamee said. "A tower-controlled airport
can be seen as one that is more inviting to business."

Closing the Oxnard tower would hurt the county's chances of recruiting new
airline service at the airport, he said.

The economic and safety effects are magnified because of the number of
airports in the region planned for tower closures, officials said. A dozen
airports in the Los Angeles basin made the FAA list, the letter says.

McNamee thinks there are alternatives to shuttering control towers, such as
trimming an FAA grant program that funds airport improvement projects.
Ventura County airports benefit from those funds, too, but slowing the
program might be a better way to save money, he said.

County officials' most immediate concern is the Oxnard Airport, which has
one of 173 towers run by third-party contractors rather than FAA staff.
Those towers would be the first to close and could be shut down early next
month.

FAA towers, including the one in Camarillo, require a year's notice for
closure.

Federal legislation to add funding to keep contract towers open at least
through the end of the fiscal year is being discussed in Washington. But
it's unclear whether the proposal will gain enough support.

Charles McLaughlin, president of Aspen Helicopters at the Oxnard Airport,
said his operations likely would be unaffected by the loss. But it would
hurt the airport's chances of attracting a commuter airline, he said.

   Post your opinion on this story in the CAA General Aviation Forum
http://www.californiaaviation.org/dcfp/dcboard.php

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