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Murphy, Blumenthal want to shift FAA cuts from control towers

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published March 19. 2013 4:00AM

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy has joined U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal in support of proposed legislation aimed at halting Federal Aviation Administration plans to close six air traffic control towers in Connecticut, including the one at Groton-New London Airport.

The six Connecticut towers and those at more than 170 at smaller airports nationwide are slated to close April 7 as a result of automatic budget cuts.

Those towers are run by personnel contracted by the FAA, a sticking point for the bipartisan amendment announced last week by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas. The amendment, co-sponsored by Blumenthal and others, would shift $50 million in FAA funding to keep the contracted towers open. Without the towers, airports would be forced to use services at nearby airports, creating concern about pilot safety and possible delays.

"This bipartisan amendment would help save those jobs and allow airports to remain open for business," Murphy said in a news release. "I'm hopeful that this amendment will pass and I applaud my colleagues for coming together to fight these devastating and ridiculous cuts."

Blumenthal on Monday announced the legislative effort at a news conference at Brainard Airport in Hartford.

Blumenthal, in an interview with The Day last week, said the proposed amendment would ensure the contracted-tower program is subject to the same 5 percent cut as other FAA programs, rather than the disproportionate 75 percent reduction the FAA has proposed.

The state-run Groton-New London Airport had 35,680 takeoffs and landings last year and its tower is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Other towers expected to close next month are at Hartford-Brainard, Waterbury Oxford, Sikorsky Memorial, Danbury Municipal and Tweed-New Haven.

While it does not have commercial flights, Groton's airport is host to the Connecticut National Guard's helicopter repair facility, the 1109th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group.

g.smith@theday.com

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