FitzGerald Appeals Control Tower Closure

Posted on: 5:40 pm, March 27, 2013, by , updated on: 05:47pm, March 27, 2013

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ohio – Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is filing an appeal with the Federal Aviation Administration over the closure of the tower at the Cuyahoga County Airport.

“We have appealed to the FAA, but they have not listened to us so far,” said FitzGerald on Wednesday.  “What I said was, when I heard about this, was we are gonna pursue absolutely every option.”

The County Executive’s Office is also petitioning the FAA’s handling of the closures, set to go into effect within a few weeks.

The FAA plans to shut down the air traffic control facilities, describing them as a necessary cutback due to the sequester which went into effect March 1.  The cuts will affect small airports starting April 7 and the closures will not force the shutdown of any of those airports, but pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency.

According to FOXNews.com, under the sequestration, the FAA has to cut $637 million for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.  The agency responded by imposing periodic furloughs on most of its 47,000 employees, including tower controllers, and closing air traffic facilities at small airports.

All of the airports targeted for tower shutdowns have fewer than 150,000 total flight operations per year, FOXNews.com reported, and of those, fewer than 10,000 are commercial flights by passenger airlines.

According to FitzGerald, there are a couple-thousand workers whose jobs rely on the airport being operational.  He also called the closure a safety issue.  The airport is a reliever for Hopkins, which, according to county officials, means air traffic controllers in Cleveland could be forced to direct traffic in Highland Heights without seeing the runway.

“They’re supposed to go through a process before they just make a cut like this that’s going to affect public safety and they didn’t do that, so they didn’t follow their own internal regulations as required by federal law and there’s a couple different airports across the country that are filing legal action to try and stop this and we’re one of them,” said FitzGerald.

FitzGerald expects a hearing within the next week or two and the tower at Cuyahoga County Airport will close on May 5.

The FAA did not return calls for a comment, but the government agency did release their closure information on Wednesday for the facilities slated to close.  They said the airports will remain safe.