Victoria Regional Airport could lose funding for air traffic controllers

Feb. 22, 2013 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 22, 2013 at 8:23 p.m.

Victoria Regional Airport funding could be on the chopping block as the Federal Aviation Administration prepares for a possible $600 million cut.

If automatic federal spending cuts take effect March 1, Victoria, along with 25 other small Texas airports, could lose funding for air traffic control centers, Victoria Regional Airport Manager Jason Milewski said Friday.

"It's a real shame that political nonsense gets involved in the safety of the public," Milewski said. "At best, we would lose significant business. At worst, lives are at risk."

Across the country, 238 air traffic control towers made the FAA's list for possible closure. This list affects airports with fewer than 150,000 annual flights or 10,000 annual commercial flights, according to a letter from the FAA and the Secretary of Transportation.

Any cuts would take effect in April.

Milewski said if the tower closed, it would not impact the airport's essential air service contract with Sun Air International.

"We are working very closely with our elected officials to try to prevent that loss of control of our airspace," Milewski said.

Victoria Regional Airport did not have air traffic controllers on sight until 2008, and Colgan Air flew out of Victoria before the tower was established.

"However, since we got the control tower, our traffic has doubled," Milewski said. "At a minimum, it could mean a significant loss of business from corporate traffic, military traffic and general aviation traffic."

According to a news release from the FAA, air traffic control closures are not alone. The administration is considering furloughing the vast majority of its 47,000 employees, eliminating overnight shifts at more than 60 facilities and reducing preventive maintenance and support for all air traffic control equipment.

As a consequence of the furloughs and prolonged equipment outages, delays could be unavoidable.

County Judge Don Pozzi said no one has contacted him about any closure.

"As far as the military operations, we could probably continue to operate," Pozzi said. He doubted whether commercial service would continue.

If the funding is lost, the next step could be to use county funds to offset expenses of air traffic control, Pozzi said.

"It would certainly take some time to sort out," he said.

Milewski said he has a meeting Monday with Congressman Blake Farenthold.

"We hope that they make the right decision," Milewski said. "I hope our elected representatives ... not just locally, but those representing the citizenry of the United States, would come to the realization of the gravity of the potential impacts."



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