By Staff Reports
(Victorville)–Citing safety concerns, economic impacts and national interests, Congressman Paul Cook and First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood urged the FAA to maintain funding for the control tower at Southern California Logistics Airport.
On March 22, the Federal Aviation Administration announced plans to halt funding for 149 air traffic control towers, including the one at SCLA, the former George Air Force Base in Victorville. However in a joint statement, Cook and Lovingood said the FAA has authority to find savings within its existing budget to keep the tower open.
The 149 control towers on the FAA’s list were funded by the FAA in 2009 when the FAA received less funding than under sequestration. Under sequestration, federal spending in 2013 will increase by 1.4 percent instead of by 2.0 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The FAA plans to begin closing the 149 control towers starting April 7.
“Closing air traffic control towers is clearly against the public’s interest,” Lovingood said. “We ask the FAA to use its existing spending authority to adjust its budget priorities. Closing the tower will compromise safety, harm the economy and undermine our national interests. ”
Cook stated “The closure of the Southern California Logistics Tower doesn’t make much sense. This airport is important both to our local economy and to the military. For instance, troops traveling to and from the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin use the airport, so closing the tower adds cost and complexity to the military mission at a time when we can least afford it. Locally, the City of Victorville is left to either find alternative funding sources, which will be extremely difficult, or have it remain closed. We need to keep funding in place.”
The FAA’s decision to close the control towers has also sparked questions from Rep. Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Sen. John Thune, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Shuster and Thune wrote to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressing safety concerns over the closures. They also requested immediate justification and documentation of the FAA’s safety analysis for each tower closure.
In selecting closure candidates, the FAA considered whether a tower is in the national interest. However Cook and Lovingood said SCLA provides a variety of services that meet the FAA criteria.
- About 40,000 troops a year travel through SCLA en route to battle training at Fort Irwin.
- The California Air National Guard recently invested more than $9 million at SCLA for Unmanned Aerial Training facilities. Loss of the control tower would halt UAV flights, including testing by FAA, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.
- The U.S. Marshal uses SCLA as an air link into Southern California.
- The military uses SCLA for tactical training and flight crew training.
- The U.S. Forest Service and other fire agencies contract with 10 Tanker Corp., which operates two specially modified DC-10 air tankers to fight the nation’s largest wild fires.
- SCLA is also home to a number of aviation testing and maintenance companies. More than 280 commercial aircraft are currently at SCLA.