Rep. Butterfield urges FAA to keep air traffic controllers

POSTED: 5:29 PM Mar 12 2013   UPDATED: 10:35 PM Mar 12 2013
butterfield and new bern airport
EASTERN CAROLINA -

Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC 1st District) sent out a letter to the the Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday, seeking to prevent local airports from losing their air traffic controllers.

Butterfield sent that letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, urging him to do what he can to continue the FAA Contract Tower (FCT) program at Kinston Regional Jetport and at Coastal Carolina Regional Airport.

Tom Braaten, director of Coastal Carolina Regional, told NewsChannel 12 that come April 7, air traffic controllers will no longer man the tower at his airport. Kinston Regional Jetport was also on the FAA list to lose air traffic controllers, but it has not received official confirmation. The decision comes as a result of the sequester, an $85 billion set of federal budget cuts that went into effect on March 1.

"It is my understanding that the FAA will make all closure decisions based on whether doing so would negatively impact the national interest, and intends to notify airports selected for FCT defunding on March 13, 2013," Rep. Butterfield wrote in his letter.  "Both Kinston Regional Jetport and Coastal Carolina Regional Airport are vital to our nation's security and economy.  To that end, I urge you to continue to support their towers."

The FCT program staffs air traffic control towers with contractors instead of FAA employees, which helps to manage air traffic control and increase air safety.  If the FCT program gets canceled, the affected airports will remain operational, despite their towers being unstaffed.

Aircraft pilots would have to audibly communicate with towers that are offsite, until they are within five miles of landing.  They will then switch to communications with on-the-ground employees who have visual sight of the runway.

Rep. Butterfield's full letter reads as follows:

Dear Administrator Huerta:

I write to urge the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to continue the FAA Contract Tower (FCT) Program at Kinston Regional Jetport at Stallings Field (ISO) in Kinston, North Carolina, and at Coastal Carolina Regional (EWN) Airport in New Bern, North Carolina.

Both Kinston Regional Jetport and Coastal Carolina Regional Airport have been notified by the FAA that they are among 189 FCTs being considered for closure as a result of budget sequestration.  It is my understanding that the FAA will make all closure decisions based on whether doing so would negatively impact the national interest, and intends to notify airports selected for FCT defunding on March 13, 2013.  Both Kinston Regional Jetport and Coastal Carolina Regional Airport are vital to our nation's security and economy.  To that end, I urge you to continue to support their towers.

Specifically, ISO is an emergency divert facility for Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and receives military flights from a dozen other bases.  ISO is also the Federal Emergency Management Agency's staging facility for Eastern North Carolina and home to the North Carolina Global TransPark, where major companies contribute to our national economy and produce critical products such as fuselages for Airbus and Boeing aircraft.  EWN is surrounded by military bases including Marine Corps Air Station - Cherry Point which uses the field for helicopter training.  Ten percent of EWN's operations are military-related, and the tower works closely with sixteen military flying units to maintain a safe flow of air traffic.

For these reasons and more, I would appreciate your full and careful consideration of this matter.

Thank you very much.
Very truly yours,

G. K. Butterfield
Member of Congress

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