Rep. Lipinski Tours Midway Airport, Presses FAA for Answers on Potential Overnight Closure of Control Tower Due to Sequester
Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3), the state’s senior member on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, sent a letter this week to the Federal Aviation Administration urging a stop to any plans for an overnight closure of the air traffic control tower at Midway Airport. Rep. Lipinski, who sits on the Aviation Subcommittee, met Friday with representatives and pilots from Southwest Airlines, as well as air traffic controllers, to learn more about the negative impact an overnight closure would have on the airport and the nation’s aviation system overall.
“At a subcommittee meeting in February, I questioned FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on the Administration’s decision to put Midway Airport’s air traffic control tower on the list for potential shutdown overnight because of the sequester. I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer and there have been no announcements from the FAA on this issue since then,” Lipinski said. “After talking with the employees that would be most impacted – the pilots of the airport’s biggest carrier and the air traffic controllers – I believe closing the control tower at Midway for any length of time undoubtedly would have a negative ripple effect on air travel throughout the country.
“As one of America’s top 25 busiest airports, Midway is vital to the economic success of the neighborhood and the entire Chicago area. Passenger traffic at Midway is at an all-time high, a remarkable accomplishment for an airport once on the verge of closing. It makes no sense that the FAA would consider an overnight closure of the tower. There seems to be little – if any – cost savings from such a move.”
The FAA this spring included Midway’s control tower among 72 nationwide that could close overnight as the agency seeks to trim $637 million from its budget because of federal sequestration. In addition to his letter, Rep. Lipinski has continued to communicate to the FAA that Midway should not be on this list and has emphasized how important it is to keep the tower open at all hours.
Each year, Midway serves almost 20 million passengers and more than 250,000 aircraft operations, ranging from smaller general aviation airplanes to commercial airlines carrying up to 175 people. According to the city’s Department of Aviation, the proposed closure of the control tower will result in 31 square miles of uncontrolled airspace each night in a densely populated area that includes downtown Chicago.
"This is one more reason why the sequester is a terrible way to go about addressing the country’s budget problems,” Lipinski said. “The sequester’s indiscriminate cuts and failure to make a distinction between worthwhile and wasteful programs is irresponsible.”
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