April 23, 2013 10:04:48 AM
Nathan Gregory - email@example.com
Air traffic controller furloughs as a result of sequestration have had no effect on operations at Golden Triangle Regional Airport, Executive Director Mike Hainsey said Monday.
The furloughs, which began Sunday, were part of an estimated $600 million in cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration as part of across-the-board reductions Congress agreed on after failure to reach a federal budget compromise. This results in air traffic controllers being required to take an unpaid day off per pay period.
The airport was one of two in Mississippi that applied for and received a waiver late last month from having its air traffic control towers shut down as a result of the cuts. GTRA appealed the FAA's initial decision to close the tower based on its close ties to the Columbus Air Force Base, which began landing training flights at GTRA earlier this year after rehabilitation started on one of its runways. Before that project began, 40 percent of GTRA traffic consisted of CAFB training flights.
The only other contract tower in the state to be exempted was Key Field in Meridian.
On the commercial side, Hainsey said delays at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where GTRA's three daily flights go through Delta Air Lines, has been minimal, and any effect sequestration had on a local level would be secondary as a result of potential delays there.
"Sequestration impacts the FAA, which has no direct impact on GTRA because there are no FAA employees at the airport," Hainsey said. "The only impact would be on passengers if they're going to a city that's affected. There have been delays in New York, but routinely New York sees delays without the impact of reduced numbers of controllers."
Hainsey said GTRA had a contingency plan in place in the event that it failed to gain exemption from the FAA, but no measures needed to be taken to keep the tower open, meaning no air traffic controllers saw cuts in hours.
"Since the FAA determined that we met a national interest by our support of the Air Force base out here, those measures aren't needed," he said.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.