Friday, March 22, 2013

Breaking: FAA: Ogden-Hinckley Airport Tower Will Close

Distraught Ogden-Hinkley Airport manager:  “We have no clue what’s going to happen next”

In a still-developing story, The Standard-Examiner breaks the worst possible news for Ogden-Hinkley Airport boosters, as it announces the highly-disappointing information that despite the desperate efforts of Ogden Airport officials and GOP Congressman-for-Life Rob Bishop to gain a reprieve, federal funding for the airport's main control tower is about to get the budget sequestration ax.

Ogden-Hinkley Control Tower
According to this afternoon's Mitch Shaw story, "[t]he FAA notified Airport Manager Royal Eccles through an email that the Ogden-Hinckley tower is one of 173 across the country that will close as part of an FAA effort to reduce expenditures by more than $600 million for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year":
“I assumed they would just close all of them. So I was prepared for the worst, but it’s still tough to take. We don’t really know what’s going to happen now,” said the thoroughly distraught Airport Manager Royal Eccles.

"The airport will remain open, but pilots will be responsible for their own safety by talking to each other, instead of the tower. The federal funding paid for contracted air traffic controllers," according to this morning's S-E story.

This of course appears "on its face" to be a severe blow to Ogden-Hinkley commercial operations, insmuch as "[a]irlines (like Allegiant Air) have yet to say whether they will continue offering service to airports that lose tower staff."

So, will commercial carriers like Allegiant continue operations at Ogden-Hinkley in the absence of a functioning air traffic control operation, we ask? Weirdly enough, some regional carriers don't seem to have necessarily ruled out that contingency at all, if we're to believe at least one Oregon-based news source, speaking of similar control tower closures in the Pacific Northwest:
According to an airport industry association, control towers at 14 small to medium sized airports around the Northwest will close on April 1 in response to automatic federal budget cuts: Four in Idaho and five each in Oregon and Washington. But regional airlines intend to keep flying to those cities they now serve.
Read that astonishing full story below.  Seeing is believing, right?
Wing and a Prayer Arrival
So what about it, O Gentle Ones?  Will our newly-arrived Alliant Air pilots be henceforth flying in and out of Ogden "by the seat of their pants," under the trusty protection of an old-style "wing and a prayer?" Or do Ogden City Lumpencitizens need to brace themselves, and hold tightly onto their wallets, for what may well turn out to be a quite hefty Ogden City Council emergency air traffic control funding request coming up VERY soon?  Would it be hopelessly tacky inelegant sophomoric to summarize by saying that despite disappointing recent developments, the future of Ogden-Hinkley Airport is still "up in the air"? Would it be overkill to predict that Ogden-Hinkley's insurance costs may very well "soar sky high" in the event that Alliance does elect to continue commercial operations under these risk-heightened circumstances?

Needless to say, we'll remain poised at the keyboard awaiting any further news on this story which might meander our way.

Take it away for now however, O Gentle Ones.

1 comment:

Roger Wilco said...

Another potential impact of sequestration to commercial traffic flying in and out of Ogden-Hinkley and military traffic at Hill AFB would be the furlough of FAA controllers at Salt Lake ARTCC (Air Route Traffic Control Center) and Salt Lake TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control), whose airspace overlies Ogden. Furloughs could especially affect Salt Lake TRACON, a 'hard-to-staff' facility that has - for the last 20 years anyway - been reliant on employee overtime in order to meet minimum staffing on many shifts.

If traffic is light, the TRACON sector that covers Ogden and Hill AFB can be combined with another sector that feeds arrivals into Salt Lake City. If there is heavy demand and not enough personnel on hand to split the Ogden/Hill sector, delays are likely inevitable.

These furloughs are FAA wide so the pain is going to be felt throughout the country by all who fly commercially, though it's nothing compared to the pain of those employees of the 149 contract towers across the nation that, like Ogden, are now facing unemployment.

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