An Air Travel Catastrophe
in the Making

U.S. Airports Face Closure Under Automatic Spending Cuts

Tuesday, January 2, 2013
Air Force One splashes water on the runway at Northwest Regional Airport in Arkansas. This airport and many like it face possible closure if budget sequestration forces the Federal Aviation Administration to make severe budget cuts.

As many as 106 U.S. airports could lose air traffic control service and effectively be shut down under automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect in March, after a two month delay of the sequester.  

Late yesterday the White House and U.S. Senate reached a tentative deal that delays by two months the onset of nearly $1 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 2.  

According to a Center for American Progress analysis, here’s a list of airports that could be affected with interactive map showing how the entire country will be impacted.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) published a report outlining the impact that sequestration will have on the aviation industry and the U.S. economy. 

The NATCA report states that all users of the National Airspace System (NAS), which includes travelers, pilots, airlines, businesses and the military will feel the impact of the cuts via a reduction in airport and air traffic control services, shrinking of the NAS’s flight capacity, increased delays, higher costs to airlines and lags in air traffic modernization. 
Closing Towers
Reducing the number of controllers and other staff will mean the FAA may be forced to cut services at some towers and possibly close some towers. Here are some of the busiest airports that could lose air traffic control service:

Code Airport City State Staff Passengers*
SAV Savannah/Hilton Head International Savannah GA 28 785,251
ISP Long Island MacArthur Ronkonkoma NY 19 781,396
SFB Orlando Sanford International Sanford FL 19 768,938
PSP Palm Springs International Palm Springs CA 13 759,510
PNS Pensacola Regional Pensacola FL 15 750,190
MSN Dane County Regional-Truax Field Madison WI 28 741,365
ICT Wichita Mid-Continent Wichita KS 41 740,675
ACY Atlantic City International Egg Harbor Township NJ 28 668,930
SRQ Sarasota/Bradenton International Sarasota FL 15 657,157
MDT Harrisburg International Middletown PA 28 655,294


Passengers* indicates the total number of passengers boarded at this airport every year. 
The Airport as a Journey in Itself 
Excerpted from

An employee of security contractor Covenant Aviation Security screens a passenger at SFO. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)
In an era of increasing surveillance and deteriorating privacy, our airports bear little resemblance to the community gathering spaces of our imaginations, where families and friends could see each other off and meet at the gate to hug one another.
On November 25th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) turned ten. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is under the massive scope of DHS, and although there have been some improvements (like strengthening cockpit doors), there have been a fair number of missteps.
The government announced a program called CAPS II in 2002 – and eventually all but scrapped it in 2007 – that would have used commercially available data about travelers to determine their risk status. The program lives on, in a limited fashion under the nameSecure Flight, which compares a passenger’s name with government-compiled watch lists.
Though Americans’ fear of terrorism is at a relative low point compared to times in the Bush-era, 38 percent of the population still thinks a “terrorist attack in the US could be imminent.” 
This perceived fear of terrorism has driven ever-increasingly authoritarian policies from the Patriot Act and warrantless spying on Americans to the kind of security theater we’re now familiar with in our airports. 
How great is the actual threat? That’s impossible to say for sure, but in 2011, about the same number of Americans were killed by their appliances falling on them as were killed in terrorist attacks.
Of course there’s a lot of money to be made by continuing to tell Americans they are under constant threat of terrorism. Military policy analyst Chris Hellman reported in 2011 that although we’re often told the Pentagon’s budget is around $700 billion, the actual national security budget is closer to $1.2 trillion per year.
As hundreds of thousands of passengers travel home for the holidays, they will have little choice but to consent to these ever-encroaching security measures. In an era of increasing surveillance and eroding privacy.
FCC Makes Changes To Improve Availability Of In-Flight Internet Access
A pilot uses the FlySmart with Airbus app on an Apple iPad. The F.A.A. has no proof that electronic devices can harm a plane’s avionics, but it still perpetuates such claims.
With pilots approved to use iPads as flight manuals in their cockpits, and the FAA’s own studies finding “no evidence saying [wireless] devices can’t interfere with a plane, and… no evidence saying that they can,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has asked the FAA to ease up on restrictions against wireless device use on planes.
Mr. Genachowski said the F.A.A. should “enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices” during flights. The letter was first obtained by The Hill
For more than a decade, the FCC has been approving individual applications from companies to provide in-flight Internet access. But this burdensome process will soon be cut in half thanks to new rules issued by the Commission.
Until now, each company that wished to supply ESAA (Earth Stations Aboard Aircraft) devices, which allow planes to provide a data connection to passengers, had to seek licensing approval from the Commission on an ad hoc basis.

The new rules establish a standard regulatory framework intended to speed up the approval process by 50% by allowing airlines to test systems that meet FCC standards, establish they do not interfere with aircraft systems, and get FAA approval.

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Kate’s Final Word
Words cannot express the gratitude we feel for your commitment to FlyersRights.  As 2012 comes to an end, we hope you will include us in your end-of-the-year giving.  FlyersRights Educational Fund is a 501(c)3 organization and your contribution is tax deductible.  
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Thank you again for your support.

Kathleen Hanni