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Groton-New London Airport among six in state to learn their control towers will close

By Greg Smith

Publication: theday.com

Published March 06. 2013 5:00PM   Updated March 07. 2013 9:20AM

In a cost-saving move precipitated by federal budget cuts, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced plans to close the air traffic control tower at Groton-New London Airport and five other Connecticut airports, effective April 7.

In response, Connecticut's federal delegation released a joint statement Thursday, saying it would continue efforts to reverse the sequester and work toward a bipartisan compromise to avoid " these arbitrary across-the-board cuts that threaten to cause job losses in industries throughout the Connecticut economy."

"This move, which is entirely preventable, will have a direct impact on the residents employed by these airports who could lose their jobs, the local economies that rely on these facilities and the safety of our airports," according to the statement signed by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy and members of Congress from all five districts: John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty.

Along with Groton-New London, other airports to be affected are Sikorsky Memorial, Danbury Municipal, Hartford-Brainard, Tweed-New Haven and Waterbury-Oxford airports.

Airport users, interviewed last week when the FAA announced more than $600 million in cuts, furloughs and closing of controls towers at smaller airports across the country, said the lack of a tower presented a safety issue. State officials said the loss of the tower would serve to slow air traffic across the country.

Groton-New London Airport had 35,680 takeoffs and landings last year and about 550 full- and part-time personnel at the airport, including workers at the Connecticut National Guard's helicopter repair facility, airport manager Catherine L. Young has said. It is one of six operated by the Connecticut Airport Authority, and one of three state-run airports with control towers manned by private companies contracted by the FAA. The others are Hartford-Brainard and Waterbury Oxford, according to the state Airport Authority. The Groton control tower is manned daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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

Groton-based submarine builder Electric Boat also has regular shuttles from Groton-New London Airport to both Washington, D.C., and Newport News, Va.

g.smith@theday.com

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