CT Airports Could Face Major Changes From Sequester

Brace yourself for air travel delays.  Connecticut's airports could see big changes as a result of the expected sequester.

The Federal Aviation Administration will cut spending by about 600 million dollars if the sequester is not stopped.  Thousands of air traffic controllers would be furloughed one or two days each pay period.  Midnight shifts in dozens of towers across the country could be eliminated.  The furloughs could result in fewer technicians to maintain equipment.

This all means possible longer wait times for air passengers at Bradley International Airport.  Fewer air traffic controllers could have an impact on creating delays with the airlines.

"We won't really know until we get into it.  It could be minutes.  It could be hours," said aviation consultant Ed Garlick.

Passengers are being urged to plan ahead and coordinate with the airlines to learn of any future flight delays.

The FAA said flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours.

Airlines for America (AFA) represents many of the major airlines that fly into Bradley and said it is premature to discuss flight delays, because the earliest any furloughs would occur is April 7.

However, the AFA is urging Congress and the Administration to work together to avoid the sequester.

"Air travel is too important to the economy and jobs to be treated like a political football," emailed an AFA spokesperson.  "And, at the same time, we are working with the FAA to ensure that if sequestration does occur, the impact to passengers and shippers, who through the taxes they pay fund two-thirds of the FAA's budget, is minimized."

The FAA said safety is its top priority and it may reduce the efficiency of the national airspace in order to maintain the highest safety standards.

Garlick, a retired FAA quality assurance manager, said safety won't be impacted by sequestration.  But he said work in the control towers at airports like Bradley is about to get a lot busier.

"They're working twice the positions that they normally would work so the front line managers and command centers need to work on a program that's going to make an even flow that doesn't overload that particular controller," Garlick said.

The FAA is even considering closing control towers at Connecticut's mid-sized airports:  Bridgeport's Sikorsky Memorial, Tweed-New Haven, Hartford-Brainard, Danbury, Groton-New London and Waterbury-Oxford.

However, Garlick said the lack of air traffic controllers at those airports may not raise the risk to pilots any more than normal if everybody does what they're supposed to do.

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