Sequester Cuts Could Affect Airports Big and Small

If the federal spending cuts known as the “Sequester” go into effect this Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is prepared to cut $600 million from its budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends September 30th. The cuts could affect air traffic control facilities at both large and small airports in the region.

Air traffic controllers and security workers at commercial airports like Logan in Boston and Bradley in Hartford could see significant hour reductions if the cuts go into effect. But Massport director of Aviation, Ed Freni, says Logan is ready with contingency plans that were already used during the snow storm earlier this month and during Hurricane Sandy.

“Our public service reps will be around the airport to assist with people if the lines get long, which we hope that doesn’t happen. We’re working with our concessionaires so they will be ready in case we need extended hours.”

Freni says operations would not be impacted until April. Smaller airports in the region could also be affected by the cuts. Twelve airports in Massachusetts and Connecticut are on an FAA list of facilities that could see their air traffic control towers closed. Brian Barnes, manager of the Westfield-Barnes Regional airport in Westfield, Massachusetts, says the airport could continue operations without a control tower. But he says the loss of a staffed tower could result in fewer corporate tenants at the airport.

“I see the greatest impact as coming down the line, us trying to get businesses to move in to the airfield, and to try to bed them down here as new tenants. They would probably be more reluctant to come here knowing that there’s not an air traffic control tower. So eventually it would impact you economically.”

Fifteen aviation companies currently operate at the airport. Regional airports in Worcester and Hartford are also on the list of potential air traffic control cuts.