Towers in the Sky


On Sunday, the US Federal Aviation Administration will start closing the first 24 of the 149 federal contract towers that will no longer receive funding because of the sequestration budget cuts.

The FAA has said that it will work with affected airports to make sure that pilots will be able to access weather information, pilot-operated runway lighting, and common traffic advisory frequencies so the effects will hopefully be minimal.

It is clearly an inconvenience for operators and the National Business Aviation Association has fought hard against these closures – and was successful in saving another 40 towers that had been targeted. But everyone accepts that the FAA, like all agencies, needs to make cuts.

In an odd way, the FAA cuts also demonstrates how strong the US business aviation infrastructure is. There are very few countries in the world with anything like as many airports as the US. China, which has a similar landmass and a population four times larger, has less than 50 airports that business jets regularly fly to.

In fact there are more business jet accessible airports in Texas than there are in all of China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines combined. The FAA cuts are clearly not good news but operators in other countries still look on enviously at the world’s greatest airport network.