February 2013
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Sequester could impact air traffic towers in Peoria and Bloomington

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood warned of disruption to the nation’s air travel if automatic federal spending cuts are allowed to go through (known as the “sequester”). The Chicago Tribune reports on how such cuts would affect air travel in Illinois (emphasis added):

LaHood said the cuts will also mean the elimination of overnight shifts at 60 air traffic control towers across the country and the closure of more than 100 towers.

Under the plan, local airport towers that would see an end to overnight monitoring include Midway and two smaller airports, Dupage and Peoria International. […]

The closure list includes five Illinois airport towers: Central Illinois Regional Airport at Bloomington-Normal, Decatur Airport, Dupage in West Chicago, Southern Illinois Airport in Murphysboro and Marion County regional in Marion. […]

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the main union representing controllers in the U.S., said Friday’s announcement of “draconian” cuts was worse than it anticipated.

“Once towers are closed, the airports they serve may be next,” the union said in a statement. “We believe the delay estimates provided by the FAA are conservative, and the potential for disruptions could be much higher.”

In Missouri, some lawmakers are seeing LaHood’s announcement as a political ploy to pressure Congress. The Springfield, Mo., News-Leader reports:

Steve Stockam, Joplin Regional Airport manager, called the situation “extremely frustrating” and said LaHood’s announcement seemed aimed at ramping up the pressure on Congress to block the $85 billion in cuts.

“It looks like this is a political move . . . trying to get the Congress to move on some of the revenue and taxes that the administration is proposing,” Stockam said.

As for how closing towers will affect air travel at smaller airports in Missouri, the article continued:

“It continues to be extremely frustrating to us,” said Stockam, “because we just don’t understand why these types of cuts are being made that really affect public safety.”

He said the Joplin airport would not have to close even if its tower is unstaffed, because pilots can talk to each other as their planes land and take off. But it would be harder to ensure the safety of passengers without air traffic controllers guiding aircraft.

“It puts people in a greater risk because you don’t have that extra set of eyes directing traffic in and out of the facility,” he said. “You have a pilot, who is also trying to fly an airplane, trying to be a controller.”

My take: I recommend reading these articles in full. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any local reaction from the Journal Star or the Pantagraph, but perhaps they’ll have some information later today. LaHood really comes across in these articles as a tool for the Administration, threatening to administer cuts in the most disruptive way possible in order to pressure Congress. Although he reportedly states that “safety remains the department’s top priority,” it sounds to me like, in reality, politics is the top priority. The sooner he can be replaced, the better.

29 comments to Sequester could impact air traffic towers in Peoria and Bloomington

  • Martin Palmer

    Obama Administration must have a mega-size Kool-aid drink for all of us. It is amazing what spin the Obama machine puts out. What next IRS will lay off thousands of people ? I think not. Tax,Tax,Tax.

  • Mahkno

    There is an alternative… The Republican led House could pass a budget that specify’s where the cuts should be. Instead the Tea Party Republicans seem to be ok with having the sequester go in effect and they hope to pin it on the President. The Obama administration isn’t the only one playing politics. Polling suggests that efforts to blame the President are failing miserably but the Teapublicans are pushing onward. Or is that obstructing onward?

  • Sam

    4 of the 5 towers mentioned for closure are already privately operated towers, the people working in them are not FAA employees. so I’m not really sure how closing these towers is going to solve any problems, unless they’re simply cutting funding of these towers, which one would have to talk to Midwest ATC or Robinson Aviation, the operators of most of the contract facilities in this country to find out just what that means for them. one would think though, that the government would say to them “You have to close x-number facilities” and let them decide who stays and who goes.


  • Cameron

    Instead of talking closures, why isn’t anyone talking consolidation? PIA and BMI are perfect examples. Two facilities within an hour of each other that handle a pretty low volume of traffic. Both have roughly 20 (I’m being generous) departures and arrivals per day, and both could easily handle double that volume. Both have been fed with generous multi million dollar grants that both are undeserving of.

    Shut down one, and make one REAL airport out of the other.

  • David P. Jordan

    Mahkno, congratulations on your assignment as Obama Administration spokesperson 😀

    Base-line budgeting means that whatever “cuts” are made, actual funding increases, if at a slower than the projected rate. That seems to be the case with the “sequester” (use of big words always impresses low information voters).

    Obama is the one who decides where the “cuts” take place. He can choose to make them where it inflicts the least pain, or play politics. He is threatening to do the latter.

    Hopefully, after eight years, the American people will tire of Obama, and his pompous “let’s talk, but…everything is still my way or the highway” lectures. Then perhaps we’ll have a shot a getting a leader in the White House in 2016.

  • David P. Jordan

    Instead of talking closures, why isn’t anyone talking consolidation? PIA and BMI are perfect examples. Two facilities within an hour of each other that handle a pretty low volume of traffic. Both have roughly 20 (I’m being generous) departures and arrivals per day, and both could easily handle double that volume. Both have been fed with generous multi million dollar grants that both are undeserving of.

    Shut down one, and make one REAL airport out of the other.

    PIA and BMI aren’t equals. The latter has 10,000′ and 8,000′ runways, air national guard and army national guard bases, air cargo and new passenger terminal, business and general aviation. BMI has 8000’and 6525′ runways, business and general aviation and some airline service (roughly half PIA’s).

    Question, is which airport should close? And will BMI accept the short straw?

  • Sam

    Instead of talking closures, why isn’t anyone talking consolidation? PIA and BMI are perfect examples. Two facilities within an hour of each other that handle a pretty low volume of traffic. Both have roughly 20 (I’m being generous) departures and arrivals per day, and both could easily handle double that volume. Both have been fed with generous multi million dollar grants that both are undeserving of.

    Shut down one, and make one REAL airport out of the other.

    BMI is already one of the contract facilities i spoke of earlier (the only one of the 5 that is FAA is DuPage). Air traffic controllers in Peoria already control the airspace around and above Bloomington. As soon as your flight takes off from BMI, control is handed over to the radar controllers sitting in a dark radar room just below the tower cab at PIA.


  • Cameron

    I’m generalizing Sam….talking more than air traffic control. I’m talking about federal grants to the tune of a half million here, a few million there for infrastructure improvements that don’t need to happen at both locations. In answer to your question David, yes. BloNo should accept the short straw. And if State Farm is actually leaving town as the rumor suggests, they may have no choice.

  • Jordan =
    How dare you blame the Republicans They have been nothing but the bestest! FEH

  • Sam

    How much would it cost to create what you term as a “REAL airport” out of one or the other? aren’t they already “real”? would you rather drive to St. Louis, Chicago, or Indianapolis for a “real airport”? …wait until sequestration and then we’ll see how the flying public likes things. As a customer-facing employee of a major airline (not at PIA or BMI), I’m dreading the never-ending days of rebooking entire flights when ATC delays become the norm.

    Sure they may have ~20 or so airline flights per day, but there is much more to aviation and airports than the airlines.


  • Mahkno

    Yes Dave… in the absence of a budget… one of which the Congress has not passed in how many years now? When the sequester hits he has the latitude to decide where the cuts hit because the sequester only vaguely defines where they should be. Yes he is playing politics with it. And why not. The GOP is playing politics with cliff hanger after cliff hanger. Two can play this game. My comment still stands.. there is an alternative to end this. Pass a freakin budget already!

  • pdw

    The House has already submitted 2 budget plans to avoid sequester and has passed a budget. The Democratic Senate has done neither. The President has neither submitted a budget nor submitted a plan reguarding the sequester cuts. The president continues to blame the Republicans, the sheeple drink the koolaid vs. checking the facts. The media supports the ramblings of the president although I did catch Bob Larson stating that the Congress passed the sequester and then almost under his breath said, “that the President signed”. The Republicans compromised and gave the President an income tax increase and a temporary gain on the debt ceiling. The President has failed to issue cuts and wants to focus on raising taxes and more spending. Just like in Illinois. And for those who haven’t been following the Dems has introduced a bill to make the “temporary state income tax increase” permanent and plan to use to continue to fund the bloated pensions. STill no discussion on the billions of unpaid bills and the remainder of the pension funding. Other tax increase ideas are being floated along. For those of you who gripe out the status of Illinois and can’t see the parallels in the federal budget, take of the rose colored glasses and all is clear.

  • Cameron

    Sam – aren’t they already real? No. Less than 20 flight handles a day, that’s borderline pathetic. PIA could easily handle double the volume that it does now, with an extra crew of baggage handlers and maybe a few more TSA employees. So the cost? Nominal, given the potential gain in volume, thus fares, thus dollars. Have you ever traveled out of Peoria to a less busier airport? Not a chance.

  • Sam

    The original post dealt with air traffic controllers and closure of facilities, that’s why I went on the ATC side of things.

    But since we’ve switched to air service and airports, more flights than another airport does not constitute a real or unreal airport. The current situation is the nature of the airline industry post-deregulation. You can’t simply build an airport first and then hope that the service comes…that was tried and failed a couple hours to the south, look up Mid-America Airport just outside St. Louis.

    The airport I work in has become a major focus-type city for Southwest/AirTran in recent years, and although our airport only has about 10 gates (approximately the same as PIA), its handled in excess of 1M passengers the last several years, but we also have a service area that is several times larger than PIA/BMI/SPI. The point is, the airport in Peoria has more than enough in terms of facilities, certainly with the new terminal, it is the airlines that need to be encouraged to add more flights…that task lies with airport management locally.

    …Now back to the sequestration topic, on that matter, you’re not going to want more flights as long as controllers are furloughed and we see massive ATC delays, because that is certainly what it will be. If they are indeed entered into sequestration, I do not envy anyone who has travel plans after March 1.


  • The Mouse

    the commercial air system should have its subsidies eliminated.

  • mrdippy

    Cameron – It is off topic… But any savy person would probably agree with you on theory, but politically no politician (and nor perhaps their local community) will ever be agree to give up their nearby airport. In theory if we built one big airport smack in the middle both Peoria & Bloomington that airport could be larger than either of the two are separately, it’d likely enjoy more flights to more places, and it’d have more potential than either separately. But I don’t see that changing in the next 30 years – so no point in my talking any more about it.

    I support letting the sequester happen if they can’t make some cuts and deliver a budget. A little pain sometimes leads to some re-invention and believe me that all organizations especially those attached to government can use a little re-invention. If the private sector can suffer layoffs / downsizing / etc and get booted out on unemployment lets share that privilege.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    At O’Hare International Terminal today … custom service slower than normal … security shared that starting tomorrow and then on Friday, it will become worse as the sequester takes place … one hour custom wait time probably will become two, three, or four hour wait times as custom personnel are being cut. That will make for trouble with connecting flights which people may not have planned when originally booking and purchasing their tickets.

  • Gary Grady

    Karrie, it sounds more like foot dragging to me. It is a common practice and human nature to get out of work. El Presidente said you shouldn’t see any sequester impacts for a month.

  • Some congresspeople and Obama still have funds for testing robotic squirrels, studying vodka effects, etc. Regrets about some suffering for a $80+ billion cut against a $2.3 trillion budget, if there was one, and an almost $17 trillion national debt???

    Far greater suffering is on the horizon before we become an America Greece.

  • Merle sez: “Far greater suffering is on the horizon before we become an America Greece.”

    Yeah yeah. You have been saying that for almost 5 years. Today, the stock market is at an all time high and even Fox admitted “we are back!” Please, Merle, tell us another one.

  • Dennis in Peoria

    Wow! Fox News actually admitted something GOOD has happened during the Obama Administration? I gotta see that. Em, you have a link?

  • Emtronics, as ususal you are on the wrong track. As I said in previous blogs that
    “the stock market is a poor sign of the wellness of this country”. What is important is the people out of jobs (about 17 million)and the condition of manufacturing in this country. As to the market, what goes up most ususally comes down.

    We will see. How is Marriott doing, the museum, the ball park, Gateway Center, etc????

    I’m spending the winter in Florida so i don’t know how your election is going but it will be a bad day for the community if a radical like you is elected.

  • Sterling

    The economy must be doing pretty well if you can afford to winter in Florida, merle.

  • Just me

    So the financial market is back to where it was 5 years ago. Big deal. Food costs are up, energy costs WAY UP, cost of living much higher and pay ain’t keepn up. Know the difference between a cashier and our President? The cashier can actually make change.

  • I’m a radical because I have liberal views? How interesting. I never doubted the President’s birth right, nor do I believe he is a Muslim. He isn’t a socialist and if he was, he would be the worse one this planet has seen. These are all things you have question Mr Widmer. Do you also believe in UFO’s?

    As for my election, well no, I did lose but hey, look at what we have voted in over the years. You said it best. The museum, the hotel, the civic center, and now the ball park is in trouble. Yep, more great leadership is what we need and we are going to get. Grayeb is back, Sandberg is runr a different seat…same cast, same ending.

    “Just me” I wonder…if the Market was up under Bush you would be waving a flag. I pay less to Ameren then I did a year ago thanks to the electric co-op. Food has always gone up, even under Bush. Our President has caught and killed Bin Laden. That’s true Mission Accomplished. I’m sure you would be waving the flag had Bush done that. Oh and please show me a cashier that can make change without the register telling them. You don’t have to like the President, I certainly thought Bush was the King Idiot (considering he drove the country off a cliff), but don’t repeat Fox News bites. Makes you sound like a parrot. Wana cracker?

  • BTW, it is a big deal that the market is back. Remember when it was so low when Obama took office? Hannity said that was Obama’s fault and it would never come back. Well well well.

  • 4:20

    Em must be hitting the pipe both AM and PM. ‘splains a lot.

  • Beats what the GOP is smoking

  • cotswold9

    Has the price of food become more affordable since the market rise? Is it easier to buy a car armed with the fact of a higher market index?

    GDP is the accounting of how the economy is doing regardless of the market index rise or fall.