Posted on February 22, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Friday, Feb 22 at 11:42 PM
Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: email@example.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl
NEW ORLEANS - The Lakefront Airport could lose it's air traffic control tower to big spending cuts in Washington.
It's on a Federal Aviation Administration list of control towers across the country that would potentially shut down if Congress and the White House can't strike a deal by this time next week in order to avoid $85 billion in spending cuts, $600 million of which would come from the FAA.
On a typical day, the Lakefront Airport handles dozens of small planes and private jets. But it handles hundreds each day during major conventions and sporting events like the Super Bowl.
“[Super Bowl] game day we probably had well over 550 aircraft on the ground,” said Addie Fanguy, general manager of Landmark Aviation, one of three fixed based operators at the Lakefront Airport.
Fanguy believes the lack of an air traffic control tower could drive business away from the Lakefront Airport for safety reasons.
“It's a crucial safety factor. Controllers do a fantastic job here, and once it's uncontrolled, it's strictly pilots talking to each other over the same frequency,” he said.
If the control tower shuts down, that doesn't mean the airport will. Thousands of smaller airports operate without them. But it would mean pilots would have to coordinate landing and taking off amongst themselves. That could prove difficult during big events.
“The Super Bowl, without having a tower here, it would have been massive chaos,” said Fanguy.
The FAA says federal spending cuts could impact everyone who flies, even on commercial airlines. Officials say potential employee furloughs across the board would mean longer waits for things like security screenings.
“I just think that's going to be more frustrating,” said traveler Naomi Franklin of Mobile, AL.
“I think it's awful, I think it's bad enough as it is,” said Radomir Luza who was traveling from Los Angeles.
“We already have long enough lines and long enough waits and I just don't think we should have to sit and tolerate [it]. Well, we're talking about Congress too. That's a long enough wait to get them to respond and do anything,” said Debbie Griffin, of New Orleans.
FAA officials said the Lakefront Airport made it to the list of potential cuts because it had less than 150,000 flights last year. Meanwhile, they said commercial travelers likely won't feel the full impact until April, when furloughs would go into effect.