Airport operators are mounting a legal challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to cut funding for 149 air traffic control towers, accusing the agency of violating federal law meant to ensure major changes at airports do not erode safety.
Several airports are now asking a federal court to halt the plan and compel the FAA to more carefully study the potential safety impact, said Carl Olson, director of the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Ill. He warned that without a more cautious approach, lives will be put at risk by cuts that he contends are arbitrary and the result of reckless political brinkmanship in Washington.
“I think everybody’s going to realize what the industry knows, and that is there is a razor thin margin of error in aviation and any diminishment of safety is going to have an immediate and cascading effect,” Olson said in an interview Friday. “And all the talk to the contrary won’t change that fact.”
Olson’s airport is among the latest to file a lawsuit this week with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington. The others are Spokane Airports in Washington state, and the operators of Florida airports in Naples, Ormond Beach and Punta Gorda. The court combined the suits into a single case Thursday.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said Friday that the agency could not comment on the pending litigation.