Updated 03/12/2013 10:53 PM
Mayor calls on FAA to keep overnight staffing at Hancock control tower
Air traffic controllers may not be on duty overnight at Hancock International much longer. The airport is on a list of those that may lose the midnight shift for their control towers thanks to sequestration cuts. Sarah Blazonis reports.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- If there's one thing the City of Syracuse knows, it's snow and at Hancock International Airport, crews have removing it down to a science.
"We remove snow 24/7, even when we don't have any scheduled flights," said Aviation Commissioner Christina Callahan.
But that could become more difficult if the airport control tower's midnight shift is eliminated.
"Like aircraft, our snow removal equipment takes its direction from air traffic controllers," said Callahan.
Snow removal is just one of the concerns Mayor Stephanie Miner brings up in a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. Miner asks Huerta to remove Hancock's control tower from the list of possible midnight shift eliminations. She says the move "would have a devastating impact to the safety of aircraft and personnel, putting thousands of lives at risk each and every day."
Just because regularly scheduled flights aren't expected during much of that time doesn't mean the airport never sees surprises. Officials say flights headed to some of the nation's largest airports will frequently stop here when they're diverted.
The city's aviation commissioner says eliminating the shift would mean the tower would be unmanned for a four to six hour period between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. Boston Center would clear flights for arrival and departure, with no direction from air traffic controllers.
"You have aircraft, employees, equipment, all utilizing the same space and we rely on the eyes of the controllers to provide direction," said Callahan.
What direction the FAA will ultimately take remains uncertain, but with $600 million in sequestration cuts expected, safety will likely continue to be a heightened concern across the industry.