It is widely reported that the FAA is still proposing to deal with its sequestration problems ($697M in the FY 2014 budget) by phasing out the funding of Contract Towers, flight service stations and contract weather observers. If true, this proposal seems to qualify under Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity—“doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
The FAA tried closing Contract Towers which are vital links between these communities and the national transportation system. Congress, in a rare demonstration of legislative action, found funds to restore these critical facilities. The House and Senate reversed the ill-conceived Sequestration cuts. Does the FAA expect a different result in FY14 under Einstein’s aphorism?
Equally important to the debate, the litigation by a number of threatened towers and associations resulted in the discovery of “decisional” documents. Those internal papers demonstrated that a Safety Management System review of the 189 towers was done, at best, at a very macro level. The reports cited general statements about ATO operations and were virtually devoid of any local facts, knowledge or input. At worst, the review was sadly deficient as measured against the FAA’s own, self-imposed standards. The information, which constituted its “record,” failed to adequately assess the safety impact of its decision to close the individual towers.
It is obvious that the FAA plans to move forward again. In order to correct its 360° safety local review, i.e. ATO complying with its own requirements, there would have been outreach to the affected communities. There is no evidence that the FAA is attempting to fill in this deficiency.
If the FAA continues to ignore what closure really means in safety terms at the airports, it may be prudent for the facilities at risk to take a proactive step and to initiate a Safety Risk Assessment for their airports. One airport did during last Spring’s crisis and the results were most telling. The analysis and data generated by such a thorough, thoughtful analysis performed by trained, objective safety professionals will produce the ammunition to support your communications efforts on local and federal levels.Share this article: