Next up on the sequester tarmac? Corporate jets

The Federal Aviation Administration has identified dozens of airfields that could be closed, many of which are regularly used by business travelers and executives.

Now that those automatic spending cuts have kicked in, bureaucrats are taking a close look at their budgets -- finding ways to cut back and save money. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has told 238 small airports that, in a couple of months, the agency could close their control towers. That could hinder the military, pilots in training, and yes, the so-called “one percent” with their private jets. 

Last night, the transportation director in Battle Creek, Mich., Larry Bowron, got an e-mail from the FAA, it read: “We regret to inform you that, in order to implement the budget sequestration that went into effect March 1, 2013, the FAA must make some critical decisions about funding.”

It went on to say that Bowron’s airport could lose its control tower. Battle Creek is home to cereal maker Kellogg's. Bowron says its executives use the airport. Company representatives weren’t available for comment.

No commercial carrier serves the airport, but according to Bowron, it’s busy.

“You can have corporate jets coming in,” he says. “You can have military airplanes coming in. It equates to a very complex operating environment.”

I heard the same thing from Mark Nelson, the air traffic manager at the Sacramento Executive Airport, where Nelson estimates, 270 aircraft take off and land every day. 

“Who is going to make the call on who turns where, and who turns when?”

That would be up to pilots themselves to decide. Even without the towers, planes would still be able to fly in and out. 

But Melissa Rudinger, with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, says these airports wouldn’t be as safe or efficient.

“There are corporations and businesses that take advantage of operating in and out of these smaller airports," she says.

Larry Bowron says he’d like to tell the FAA about his airport’s importance to Battle Creek, but... He goes back to that e-mail.

“The FAA is unable to consider local community impact that does not affect the national interest.”

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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