I-Team Report: Federal budget cuts affecting air travel

March 6, 2013 4:58:40 PM PST
The federal budget crisis has begun cutting into commercial aviation in Illinois and across the nation.

Thousands of Chicago employees of the Federal Aviation Administration received a furlough notice. They are among almost 47,000 FAA employees nationwide, who received letters informing them of forced days off.

One unpaid day every two weeks starting next month through September is a likely scenario these employees will face.

The FAA also notified small airports in the Midwest that their control towers will be closed all together..

At O'Hare, there will be delays of up to 1 1/2 hours beginning early April, the head of the FAA says.

That's because federal furloughs will cut the hours that air traffic controllers are allowed to work. Major hubs such as Chicago, New York and San Francisco will be hit hardest according, according to FAA records.

But the $600 million in budget crisis cuts won't end there.

Nine smaller Illinois airports, six in Indiana and eight in Wisconsin face complete control tower closures or an end to overnight flights, since no one will be on duty to guide the planes.

DuPage Airport in West Chicago is among those on the federal hit list.

Others are spread across Illinois and include even the Abraham Lincoln Airport in Springfield, where state politicians frequently come and go.

Executives with the American Association of Airport Executives say they have been informed that the federal control towers will be shut down at 173 small airports on April 7th, followed by another 16 towers closing in September.

As the federal budget crisis claims control towers across the country, there is a question of quantity, and also quality. H

Fewer experts at fewer radar screens, working fewer hours, may affect how well the nation's skies are controlled.

A recent investigation found that non-union, privately contracted controllers do the job for a fraction of the cost- and some industry observers believe that may be the eventual fallout from this.

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Control tower shift eliminations:

Control tower closures:

Aurora Airport:

DuPage Airport:

Waukegan Airport