Some Southern Tier air traffic towers facing closure

Mar 8, 2013

The regional airports in Ithaca and Binghamton would both lose their air traffic controllers if federal budget cuts known as sequestration take full effect. The first round of closures begins April 7.

The airports in that group, which includes Ithaca Tompkins Regional airport, staff their towers with private contractors.

The Federal Aviation Administration has named more than 200 towers that could eventually be affected. There are 173 facing closure in the first group of privately-run towers.

According to Ithaca Tompkins Regional airport manager Bob Nicholas, air traffic control closures won’t cause a safety issue. He says the workload would shift to the regional FAA tower in Elmira.

"This is really a level of service question, not a safety question. Service would slow down," says Nicholas.

The Greater Binghamton Regional Airport is in a separate group of closures. Binghamton's air traffic controllers are employed by the federal government.

That second set of closures would happen during the new fiscal year in September, says Carl Beardsley, the commissioner of aviation at Binghamton airport.

Beardsley says the closures would affect air travel far beyond Binghamton.

"I think that’s one of the reasons it’s very important that air traffic control be at full speed because what happens in Binghamton air space can have an impact on what happens in the entire northeast corridor," says Beardsley.

The tower closures could still be avoided if lawmakers can reach an agreement  on funding before the scheduled March 27 government shutdown.