FAA Denies Tweed’s Appeal

Thomas MacMillan PhotoTweed-New Haven’s air traffic control tower will close April 7, dealing a blow to the airport but not ending commercial flights, officials announced Friday in response to a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA announced Friday that, despite pleas from city officials and members of Congress, it will go ahead with plans to close the air traffic control tower at Tweed-New Haven Airport and five other small Connecticut airports. Tweed is one of 149 small airports slated to lose their towers due to automatic budget cuts prompted by the federal “sequester.”

Politicians had joined the airport in fighting to keep Tweed’s tower open. At question was whether the airport would be able to stay open without the tower. The answer depends on whether Tweed’s sole commercial airline, US Airways, which offers four daily flights to Philadelphia, would skip town.

Airport chief Tim Larson announced Friday that US Airways will continue service at Tweed. “The FAA decision is not ideal because it will negatively impact how quickly Tweed can grow and become more of an asset for the regional economy. But it will not end our commercial service,” he said in a press release issued by the city.

Mayor John DeStefano, who lobbied the FAA to keep the tower open, blasted the FAA decision. “It’s unfortunate that important public policy decisions, that have significant impact on our economy and public safety, are being made as a result of sequestration,” he said. “This tower closure will do little to help grow Tweed, which is fast becoming an economic engine within the region.”

In a joint press statement, U.S. Sens. Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said they are “deeply disappointed” in the FAA’s decision. “Closing air traffic control towers at all six of these airports, including one that provides commercial service, will cause needless harm to the residents who work there and the regional economies that depend on their services.”

The Senators failed in one effort to attach an amendment to a bill to save the towers. They vowed to “continue to fight to restore federal funding for these towers,” by offering another amendment Friday night.

In a separate statement, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro also said she is “deeply disappointed.” “Millions of dollars have been invested in improving Tweed over the past five years and the same FAA that made today’s announcement has also said that Tweed is instrumental to the future of aviation in New England and hoped to expand it. This is exactly the wrong direction for our community.”

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posted by: anonymous on March 22, 2013  6:31pm

This is just stupid. Several other cities built new control towers just last year and had to shut them down too.

posted by: DingDong on March 22, 2013  7:04pm

Don’t blame the FAA.  Blame the politicians.  Or, really, blame the stupid, dated Constitution we have that guarantees gridlock and ensures dysfunction (and then expects us to think its “check and balances” are such a great thing).

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on March 23, 2013  6:49am

Most smaller airports have unmanned towers (or no towers in many cases) but often are controlled by other staffed locations—including turning on landing lights when requested. Airport tower controllers do not help pilots “navigate” to the airports. They sequence and clear aircraft to land at the airport, update weather and wind information, and control the movement of aircraft when they are on the airport surface. At some non-towered airports the weather is done automatically, and the pilots self-announce their positions when landing and taking off on a common frequency. Tweed-New Haven’s control tower is also closed from 10PM to 6AM every day now, and this does not restrict or impede Lifestar helicopter operations to Yale-New Haven Hospital or organ donor flights. US Airways has stated that they will continue to serve Tweed—even if the control tower closes. And if they discontinue service, it will be because it’s a money-loser—not because there is no air traffic controller. I have landed at Tweed in a commercial 737 after the tower was closed for the evening. The closing of Tweed’s tower will not affect the safety of private or commercial flights: it is in the pilot’s own best interest to assure that. One thing that might change is the job-status of Tim Larson, who is Exec. Dir. of the Tweed New Haven Airport Authority—and who also is Congressman Larson’s brother. Could that be why entire CT congressional delegation pushed to maintain Tweed’s status quo? Rosa DeLauro: “There is no reason for people to be facing the loss of their livelihood.” This reflects DeLauro’s approach to govt.: use tax money to provide as many govt. jobs as possible—so these govt. employees then will keep DeLauro in office and fund her perpetual re-election campaign.  This underscores the sequester upside: Prior to sequestration all we heard about were unnecessary, vote-winning, budget-busting pork-projects endorsed by perpetual politicians like Rosa DeLauro. This sequester is the first time we’ve been forced to deal with the exploding federal debt and make meaningful cuts to anything. To those who love liberty, freedom and not being held hostage by the wasteful, run-a-way-train spending of your tax money by our in-office-for-life elected officials, sequestration is welcome—and long overdue. We need to have one every year.

posted by: alexey on March 23, 2013  9:13am

I’ve read that these are so-called contract towers and that communities may choose to fund them.  What would it cost to keep the Tweed tower staffed? If it really is as important as our dear leaders insist, perhaps they can raise the needed money from a combo of private and public sources.

posted by: SaveOurCity on March 23, 2013  12:04pm

quoting the Tweed Airport Chief

“The FAA decision is not ideal because it will negatively impact how quickly Tweed can grow and become more of an asset for the regional economy. But it will not end our commercial service”

Really?!?  All this noise from our politicians and all we stand to lose is the speed at which Tweed can grow in the future?  Considering its pace of growth in the past decade and the real prospects for future growth, I’d venture to say that we have lost nothing. 

It seems that DeStefano, DeLauro, Blumenthal and similar clowns should leave this fabricated disaster alone and get back to work.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on March 23, 2013  2:20pm

SaveOurCity said:  “DeLauro…should leave this fabricated disaster alone and get back to work.” You’re making the assumption that Rosa DeLauro actually HAS worked. Despite 22 years of bluster, her record of sponsored bills that have passed suggests otherwise: https://www.opencongress.org/people/bills/400103_Rosa_DeLauro

posted by: SaveOurCity on March 24, 2013  8:57am

@ Christopher Schaefer : I apologize for making the brash assumption that Rosa actually performs the job for which we pay her.  It sure would be nice if CT voters valued results over consistency.

posted by: steve on March 26, 2013  9:02pm

The reason for the limited amount of service at tweed is not because the demand is not there, it has been the decades of opposition to the airport mostly from east haven. When united flew from tweed to Chicago, many of the flights from Chicago to tweed were full and we are talking about an aircraft with well over 100 seats. The problem was the flights departing from tweed to Chicago were weight restricted due to the limited amount of useable runway length.
Over the years trees had grow tall enough to penetrate the flight paths causing flights having to leave paying passengers behind and leave with empty seats.
United stayed at tweed for almost 5 years but they could not continue to sustain the losses due to weight restricted flights.
With fuel being very high, airlines need to have load factors of 90% and above to make money and when tweed finishes is obstruction removal project, which will need some state help to override a few property owners who are being stubborn and unreasonable in not allowing the trees to be cut, then when the project is finished, the full use of the runway will be available and the landing slope angle will be more favorable.
Tweed has the potential to become a regional airport with service to several airline hubs in addition to Philadelphia.
With a runway free of obstructions and of proper length, tweed can attract more service and keep passengers from having to travel almost up to Massachusetts to bradley field or fighting traffic to the new York airports.

posted by: DingDong on March 28, 2013  2:48pm

This story may be over, but one thing I thought to mention is that, instead of developing Tweed, another way to get great air access to New Haven is Union Station.  Amtrak and United already have code shares to Newark Airport.  You can get on a train at Union Station, which is given a United flight number, and it takes you right to Newark airport.  (You have to go to United’s website to book these tickets; just put your final destination/departure point as ZVE—New Haven Union Station). 

You can fly virtually anywhere in the world non-stop from Newark.  Right now there are only about six or seven Amtrak connections from New Haven that go to Newark airport (most trains pass by EWR without stopping), but encouraging United and Amtrak to increase and improve that service is just as good, perhaps better, than expanding Tweed.