Duluth Airport Overnight Air Traffic Control Shift on the Chopping Block

By KBJR News 1

February 22, 2013 Updated Feb 22, 2013 at 6:37 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The midnight air traffic controller shift at Duluth International Airport could be eliminated due to automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

In a memo sent Friday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta laid out the possible impact of the cuts on airports across the nation. It states the FAA is making plans to reduce its expenditures by approximately $600 million for the remainder of fiscal year 2013.

Changes being considered:

- Furlough vast majority of the FAA's nearly 47,000 employees (including all management and non-management employees working within the Air Traffic Organization) for approximately one day per pay period until September, with a maximum of two days per pay period.

- Eliminate midnight shifts in over 60 towers across the country.

- Close over 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations or 10,000 commercial operations per year.

- Reduce preventative maintenance and equipment provisioning and support for all NAS equipment.

Duluth International Airport employs 21 full-time tower operators, working three different shifts. There's no indication what eliminating the midnight shift would mean for the federal workers.

"Any cut to tower hours, while disappointing, doesn't mean we won't be able to conduct business.," said Tom Werner, the executive director of the Duluth Airport Authority.

Werner said Friday there is a group of stakeholders working to understand the impact of sequestration and will develop a safe and competent plan.

Duluth is the only airport on the overnight elimination list in Minnesota.

Anoka County-Blaine Airport, Flying Cloud, Crystal Tower and St. Cloud Regional are all listed as facilities that could close.

During a visit to Duluth Friday, Senator Al Franken said he's confident an agreement will be in place before the cuts take place next week.

"We have a package that addresses this," the Senator said. We can get it done. We can get it done next week. So we don't have to go into sequester. All we need is the house to agree, that we're going to take a balanced approach."

Kevin Jacobsen
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