March 06--NEW HAVEN -- Tweed New Haven Regional Airport and five other Connecticut airports will lose their air traffic controllers on April 7 as part of Federal Aviation Administration cuts related to the federal sequester, members of the state's Congressional delegation said Wednesday.
That's assuming no resolution is reached in the federal political standoff.
Federal funding for the air traffic control towers at Sikorsky Memorial, Danbury Municipal, Groton-New London, Hartford-Brainard, Tweed New Haven and Waterbury-Oxford airports may be terminated on April 7, the Federal Aviation Administration told Connecticut lawmakers, the seven-member delegation said in a joint press release.
"We will continue our efforts to reverse the sequester and work toward a bipartisan compromise that will avoid these arbitrary across-the-board cuts that threaten to cause job losses in industries throughout the Connecticut economy," the statement said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the delegation plans to appeal the decisions -- and thinks it has a particularly good case with regard to Tweed, which is growing both in terms of commercial service and employment.
"We still have hope that perhaps the decision about Tweed and the other airports in Connecticut can be reversed," Blumenthal said, "and we're working as a team to seek a bipartisan solution that can avert this very tragic and preventable impact on people who work at the airports and the communities that will be very significantly harmed."
Blumenthal added, "There may be a means to appeal it, especially to Tweed, where clearly there is burgeoning commercial traffic and a growing customer base, not to mention 120 jobs" at stake, both at the airport itself and in related industries.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, said, "This was a manufactured crisis. It didn't have to happen ... There was no need to do this."
But House Speaker John Boehner has made it clear in past statements that cuts are just what are needed.
"At some point Washington has to deal with its spending problem," Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a recent Capitol news conference. "Now, I've watched them kick this can down the road for 22 years that I've been here. I've had enough of it! It's time to act."
While Republicans "may not be the majority party here in Washington ... the American people would agree with us on this, and we're going to continue to stand with the American people," he said.
Tweed New Haven Airport Authority Executive Director Tim Larson said Tweed officials found out late Tuesday afternoon and plan to meet with key vendors and other players on Thursday "to begin preparing our appeal."
Besides the airport's own attributes, "New Haven has some very interesting characteristics that others don't," -- including presence of two hospitals and an FBI office in downtown New Haven, Larson said.
The airports have until next Wednesday to appeal.
Of the six airports that would lose their control towers, Tweed is the only one that currently has commercial air service. It also is the only Connecticut airport with commercial service besides Bradley International in Windsor Locks.
Bradley is not on the list, although it's likely to be affected by the nationwide air traffic slowdown that experts predict will result from sequester cuts.
Whether Tweed's air service would continue with the control tower closed would be up to US Airways, which flies four daily flights each way between Tweed and Philadephia, officials have said. The airline has declined to comment.
Call Mark Zaretsky at 203-789-5722. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Copyright 2013 - New Haven Register, Conn.
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