CHICAGO (CBS) – Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) has written to the Federal Aviation Administration, questioning why Midway International Airport has been placed on a list of 72 airports where air traffic control towers could be closed overnight.
WBBM Newsradio’s Terry Keshner reports the possible closures are part of nearly $640 million in budget cuts required at the FAA under the so-called sequester order for the federal government.
The move would not force the airports to close overnight, but pilots would have to coordinate takeoffs and landings by themselves over a shared radio frequency while the tower is closed.
Lipinski, whose 3rd Congressional District covers the airport, said Midway is the 25th busiest airport in the country, and should not be on the list of potential tower shutdowns.
“It’s especially important now that the summer is coming, and flights expand at Midway Airport during the summer,” he said. “If there is a tower closure, then there will be fewer flights at Midway Airport, more problems for passengers, and it won’t be good for the city.”
Lipinski said Midway needs to stay open if flights are delayed late at night, or if there’s overflow redirected from O’Hare due to inclement weather, or for potential emergency medical flights.
He wrote to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to plead Midway’s case, “and I have not heard anything to respond to the questions I asked about going to the stakeholders – those people in the Chicago area, those who use Midway Airport – to find out what the damage would be.”
The FAA already plans to close air traffic control towers at 149 small towers nationwide. Those towers are staffed by private contractors hired by the FAA. Those closures had been set to start on Sunday, but were pushed back until June.