Airport director sees no impact on passengers

Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 10:15 AM.

Braaten said four air traffic controllers, generally retired FAA or military controllers, staff the New Bern tower. He said he is sorry for the potential job loss for tower controllers who he said have been an integral part of Coastal Carolina Regional Airport’s team, even riding in parade floats and participating in civic support functions, but air traffic into the area will continue.

“Airports have been operating without individual towers for years,” Braaten said. “The FAA assigns them to higher air traffic centers and they operate through them at 50 percent of airports in the country.”

Jacksonville and Greenville airports already operate without individual towers.

“When (then-President) Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers in 1981, New Bern operated without a tower until 1991,” he said. “We had commercial traffic then. We’ve been very blessed that we had a tower. They’re an extra set of eyes up high.”

Braaten said a meeting would be set up with pilots to discuss procedures for landings and takeoffs at the airport, which would involve a common radio frequency so pilots can communicate with each other.

Cherry Point air traffic control oversees airspace in the region. A statement issued by the base said workload is not expected to increase for its tower workers as a result of any potential cuts at area airports, and that its controllers don’t provide the same service as the controllers at the New Bern airport.

Braaten said the bigger impact from sequestration on the airport could be a drop in passengers, some of whom work at Cherry Point and could see less money in their paychecks and decide not to travel.

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