Roanoke Regional Airport is on the list for possible overnight closure of part of its air traffic control operations said spokesperson Sherry Wallace. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a list of air traffic control towers across the state that may close or may have reduced hours.
Although sequestration is expected to go into effect on March 1, 2013, the earliest travelers would see a change at Roanoke Regional Airport is April 1. Here is what the Roanoke Regional Airport Commission knows now per Wallace.
While unfortunate, the elimination of some midnight shifts does not pose a safety risk to commercial passengers, flights or ground crews, which do not traditionally operate during the hours after midnight.
The Roanoke Regional Airport will continue to have controllers to direct aircraft in the air twenty-four hours per day from the FAA’s secondary Tower Radar Approach Control station, located at the Airport, to assist both commercial and general aviation flights.
Currently, the last passenger flights land at Roanoke Regional Airport between 11 p.m. and midnight and resume at 5:30 a.m. It is expected that the tower ground flight operations will be closed after the last flight and before the first flight of each day; however, passengers on late night flights delayed by weather, air traffic congestion or aircraft malfunction may be inconvenienced, depending on the policies of the various airlines using ROA.
Because these measures are merely possible, not certain, the airlines have not indicated their intended response to these changes.
The FAA has not released its contingency plan for staffing. At this time there has been no release of information regarding specifics on the number of employees locally that will be affected, the exact hours the tower will be closed or how long these measures will be in place.
Secretary LaHood said in his press conference that there could be flight delays or a temporary reduction in flights; he emphasized that there could be significant delays at large cities. The Commission is in close contact with our airline partners to discuss how we can minimize impact on air service to our region.
The Roanoke Regional Airport Commission fought very hard for a 24-hour tower, a fight that was finally successful in 1999. And while it is never easy to take a step backward, both commercial and general aviation air traffic flourished before the 24 hour operations and can continue to do so now until other measures can be put into place.
The Commission has been in touch with the offices for Congressmen Goodlatte and Griffith, as well as Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, to express its strong desire to keep all operations at this tower open 24 hours a day.
Should the cuts in personnel and operations move forward, the Department of Transportation advises that passengers everywhere should be prepared for flight delays this spring, especially when flying to or from major markets. Passengers will have to plan accordingly and allow for extra time especially when traveling on connecting flights.