FAA pulls air traffic controllers from Lakeland Linder, Albert Whitted Airports

11:00 PM, Mar 22, 2013   |    comments
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An air control tower at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

 


 


Saint Petersburg, Florida - The Federal Aviation Administration announced it will pull air traffic controllers from two Bay Area airports starting next months.

As part of sequestration cuts, the government entity was ordered to slash its budget by $637 million, Lakeland Linder airport and Albert Whitted airport in St. Petersburg will lose their FAA funded air traffic controllers. 

"Obviously it's unfortunate. We were hoping for a different outcome, but it is what it is," said Gene Conrad of the Lakeland Linder airport.

The argument has been that cutting FAA funded air traffic controllers will cut safety, as pilots will not have anyone looking out for them in the skies, but it also means jobs will be lost.

"They're private citizens they are not federal employees and unfortunately they just got word today as we did as well," said Conrad.

The news comes as the airport prepares to become home to the busiest airspace in the world for the annual Sun 'n Fun air show.

Even through the sequestration cuts officially take effect on April 7th, the FAA committed air traffic controllers for the show that runs from April 9th through the 14th- at which time the airport will be home to as many as 10,000 aircrafts.

Meantime, officials at Lakeland Linder Regional airport are working on a plan to staff it going forward.

"Just because we're losing our funding from the feds doesn't mean we're closing our tower and that will be the end of our tower."

But that might be the case for the tower at Albert Whitted Airport in Saint Petersburg, which constructed a brand new tower with federal stimulus dollars just a year-and-a-half ago.

"The FAA obviously thought safety was a factor when they approved funding for a new tower. Now they're suddenly saying, 'well safety is not that big of a deal'," said Richard Lesniak.

While the airport manager insists there are already safety protocols in place, the airspace shared with Tampa International and MacDill Air Force Base will become doggier.

"Basically, the pilots are now going to be responsible (for) communicating with each other and depending on the operating procedures (which) would basically land first."

Air traffic control towers will begin closing on April 7th, but will take about four weeks to phase out the controllers at all 149 airports affected.

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