SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 7, 2014

Column: Closing air tower would be irresponsible

The following responses reference comments made by Keith Lucy and George Stankiewicz in the Saturday, Dec. 7, Salem News Letters to the Editor. In Mr. Lucy’s comments, he said the math behind funding the Beverly airport didn’t add up. That the (approximately) 60,000 operations is well below the 150,000 operations set by FAA to continue funding and that the record month of 157 commercial operations extrapolated per year fell far short of the 10,000 commercial operations set by FAA guidelines for continued FAA funding. Mr. Lucy further found the 60,000 operations figure “an absolute absurdity.” The Beverly Airport Commission offers these facts to set the record straight.

Mr. Lucy: “The 60,000 operations is well below the 150,000 operations set by FAA to continue funding.”

Answer: Incorrect. The 150,000-operation limit was purposely established by the FAA to close those towers in order to save money and meet their sequestration budget limitations. Prior to sequestration, FAA used a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether a new tower could be opened or an existing tower would be closed. This is a ratio of the cost of operating a control tower versus how much safety is increased with the operation of the control tower. While total yearly operations are to some degree evaluated in this analysis, there is no arbitrary number in this consideration. The cost/benefit analysis is more heavily weighted toward complexity of operations at the airport (i.e. multiple runways, mix of traffic between slow and fast aircraft, peak hours operations, and the complexity of multiple instrument approaches). While the total number of operations at the airport has decreased since the control tower opened in 1977, the complexity of operations has dramatically increased. When Congress passed legislation to continue funding contract towers in June, the FAA dropped the 150,000 limited and reverted to its established policy of cost/benefit analysis. Beverly tower met the cost/benefit threshold when it opened in 1977 and it continues to meet the criteria to this day.

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