Air traffic control worker speaks out - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Air traffic control worker speaks out

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GROTON, CT (WFSB) -

As the sequestration deadline nears, there is a possibility of six air traffic control towers in Connecticut being shut down next month.

"You could see a safety concern issue right away," said Chet Moore, who is an air traffic control manager at the Groton-New London Airport.

Eyewitness News talked to several pilots Thursday and the manager of the air traffic control tower at the Groton-New London Airport. And all of them said everyone is concerned about safety.

"The last thing we want to do is leave," said Moore, who could lose his job in the process. "I don't want to leave.  I love this place."

In a few weeks, because of the national budget sequester, Moore and his colleagues could be out of work when 189 control towers close at medium-sized airports.

All these controllers are employed by a private firm contracted with the Federal Aviation Administration.

"My guys, this is nothing they could do anything about, but the stress of whether or not they're going to have their job, that's more important," said Moore, who has worked at the Groton-New London Airport for 18 years. "And that's a problem."

Moore told Eyewitness News that six control towers in Connecticut would be affected by the cuts.

The safety issue that Moore said he sees in Groton is not servicing the air traffic space over the Naval Submarine Base, General Dynamics Electric Boat, the Millstone Power Plant, the Avcrad Facility or providing accurate local weather information for incoming pilots. 

Pilots such as Ryan Gauthier, who runs Action Airlines, said he's not looking forward to flying in and out without the second eyes of controllers.

"It adds a level of safety that now we are going to have to be without," Gauthier said.

Moore told Eyewitness News that there are a lot of accidents due to the weather.

"We probably would have had a lot more, a lot more without the tower," Moore said.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, sent a letter to the FAA.

"If these towers are closed, the safety and efficiency of our airspace could be compromised as already short-staffed FAA facilities are left to fill the gap," Courtney wrote in the letter.

Moore told Eyewitness News that the good news is that lawmakers in Washington, DC, are still talking as of Thursday night.

He added maybe the controllers in the Senate and the House of Representatives will find a safe flight path for the federal budget plan and avoid shutting the towers.

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