Federal budget sequestration has wrought a ludicrous — and dangerous — situation at Toledo Express Airport. The airport could end up without air traffic controllers at night.
Sequestration is the government forcing itself to cut federal expenditures and services across the board because it cannot bring itself to make policy and spending choices. If a private business used such a method of economizing, stockholders would rightly accuse the managers of failing to manage and replace them.
Yet some people think sequestration is a good idea: harsh medicine that will wake the patient up. And some people think it doesn’t matter; life has rolled on as usual. But that’s changing as the effects of sequestration — $85 billion in spending cuts — start to trickle down.
Because of $637 million in cuts the Federal Aviation Administration must absorb, Toledo Express is on a list of dozens of U.S. airports the agency has targeted for loss of air traffic control towers from midnight to 6 a.m. Flights headed to or from Toledo Express during those hours would be directed from the FAA’s Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center in Oberlin.
But those controllers would not have radar capability below 3,000 feet. Pilots would have to communicate among themselves to protect against conflicting takeoffs, landings, or airfield taxiing.
This is crazy, absurd, and irresponsible. It’s not as if nothing happens between midnight and 6 a.m. Charter flights take sports teams, industrial shipments, and emergency medical deliveries into or out of Toledo during those hours.
Some fear that if the budget cuts take effect, they will never be reversed and the airport will forever be towerless late night to morning. In addition to the dangers this would pose, the airport’s credibility would suffer a body blow.
Jerry Chabler, chairman of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board’s airport committee, correctly observed: “The leaders in Congress need to stop worrying about politics, and they need to start thinking about the consequences of sequestration.” A plane crash would be such a real-world consequence. So would the inability to get medical supplies to Toledo.
Sequestration means fewer air traffic controllers, meat inspectors, and public health programs. It means less of the things the government does well and Americans depend on. Congress and President Obama must find a better way.