Danbury Municipal Airport's air traffic control tower is scheduled to close in April along with five other airport towers in Connecticut because of the federal budget impasse.
The Federal Secretary of Transportation sent letters on Feb. 22 to airports, trade associations and others saying the sequestration (partial government shutdown) will also lead to longer flight times because of fewer air traffic controllers.
"Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we will have fewer controllers on staff," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote to the Department of Defense, Airlines for America, the National Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, among others.
The Danbury Air Traffic Control Tower employs six people. In his letter, LaHood wrote the agency will have to cut $600 million because of the sequestration, and that may mean closing 100 air traffic control towers nationwide. The smaller airports will lose their towers, those airports with fewer than 150,000 take-offs and landings a year. It will also lead to furloughs for 47,000 FAA employees of one day per pay period, but up to as many as two days per pay period between April and September.
"We also expect that as airlines estimate the potential impacts of these furloughs, they will change their schedules and cancel flights," LaHood wrote.
Danbury Airport Administrator Paul Estefan said Danbury has about 80,000 take-offs and landings a year, which means the Danbury tower is likely to close in April when the FAA sets a closure date.
LaHood's letter includes a list of all the airports likely to lose their air traffic control towers in April. In Connecticut, those are Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, Danbury Municipal Airport, Groton-New London Airport in Groton (New London,) Hartford-Brainard in Hartford, Tweed New Haven in New Haven, and Waterbury-Oxford in Oxford.
"If they can't resolve the budget, I guess that's the game plan," Estefan said. "The real question is after the sequestration, will they bring them back and how long will that take?"