Thursday, April 04, 2013

Washington, DC: Jon C. Cooper Accused of Embezzling $1 Million From Indonesian Airline And Other Charges

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Government officials announced that a federal grand jury indicted Jon C. Cooper, 64, of Washington, D.C. for embezzlement of $1 million from an Indonesian airline company, filing a false tax return to conceal the embezzled income and mortgage fraud charges.

Last year in September Cooper was indicted on charges of conspiracy, first-degree fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. He pled not guilty to all of those charges.

Today officials report that Cooper has been charged with more counts including bank fraud, making a false statement on a loan application, and aiding or assisting the filing of a false tax return.

The indictment accuses Cooper of using forged letters to get an Indonesian airline to make a $1 million security deposit to lease aircraft and then moving the money into his personal account to pay personal expenses such as credit card and loan debt, officials say.

If convicted, Cooper faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for bank fraud. He would face additional time for other counts. An arraignment for the charges has been scheduled on April 11, 2013.


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Boeing Deliveries Are Flat: WSJ

April 4, 2013, 12:53 p.m. ET
The Wall Street Journal

Boeing Co.  said Thursday its deliveries of commercial aircraft were flat with a year earlier in the first quarter, during which its new 787 aircraft was grounded globally.

The company delivered just one 787 Dreamliner during the quarter. The entire 787 fleet was ordered out of service by regulators in mid-January because of problems with the aircraft's lithium-ion battery.

Boeing delivered 137 aircraft in the first quarter, the same as the year-earlier period though up from 128 deliveries in last year's fourth quarter.

The first-quarter tally included 102 of the company's 737 next-generation planes, up from 99 a year earlier.

Total deliveries exceeded the expectations of brokerage firm Sterne Agee, which ahead of Thursday report lowered its estimate to 128 aircraft deliveries. The firm said it remained positive about Boeing, noting that orders for twin-aisle aircraft should pick up with the expected launch of an improved version of Boeing's 777 jet.

Boeing in January forecast 2013 commercial deliveries would hit a record 635 to 645 aircraft.

Last year, Boeing delivered 601 commercial jets, its highest output in more than a decade as it regained its crown as the world's largest producer of jets, topping the Airbus unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.  The total included 46 of its 787 Dreamliners, a jet that Boeing has struggled to deliver in higher numbers after years of production and design delays.

In the single first-quarter delivery of a Dreamliner, the plane was actually handed over to Air India prior to the global fleet's grounding, but wasn't confirmed as delivered until last month "pending completion of certain items," Boeing spokesman Wilson Chow said in an emailed statement.

—Jon Ostrower contributed to this article.


Alabama Legislature limits aircraft lawsuits

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The state Legislature passed a bill Thursday designed to make sure Alabama lands Airbus aircraft suppliers rather than its neighboring states.

The Senate gave final approval to the bill 27-0 Thursday and sent it to the governor, who endorsed it and promised to sign it into law. The bill limits lawsuits against a plane's manufacturer and suppliers to causes of action arising within 12 years after a plane is delivered. Proponents said the time had been unlimited.

The bill is tailored for the new Airbus plant in Mobile because it applies only to commercial planes with at least 100 seats. Gov. Robert Bentley recruited Airbus last year with $158 million in cash, tax breaks and other incentives. The groundbreaking is set for Monday. The $600 million plant is supposed to employ 1,000.

Bentley said 3,700 more jobs could be created by companies supplying products to the plant. The governor visited Europe four months ago to talk to potential suppliers about locating plants in Alabama. After that visit, he said Mississippi and Florida had stricter litigation laws than Alabama, and they were using that to recruit suppliers because both states are near Mobile.

In addition to limiting lawsuits to 12 years after a plane is delivered, the legislation requires a person to file a suit within two years after a cause of action arises. That two-year period extends from the last day of the 12-year limit. The bill also makes it harder for out-of-state residents to sue Airbus and the suppliers in Alabama if the issue that triggered the lawsuit occurred elsewhere.

Alabama's agreement with Airbus for the Mobile plant required state officials to do their best to pass the legislation. The bill was a compromise worked out with plaintiff lawyers, and it moved through the House and Senate without a negative vote. Bentley's press secretary, Jennifer Ardis, said it had broad support because "it's a job creation bill."

So far, Alabama has landed one Airbus supplier, Safran Engineering Services, which plans to employ 30 to 50 people in an engineering supporting facility in Mobile.


Macon, Georgia: Company faces $83,160 in OSHA fines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said a Macon company exposed workers to levels of a dangerous chemical eight times higher than allowed -- and it’s not the first time.

Two of the three violations alleged against Aerospace Defense Coatings of Georgia are repeat violations, said the agency. OSHA is seeking $83,160 in fines, according to citations issued Tuesday. The company coats and paints metals.

The citations claim the company’s work areas were unsafe. OSHA claims that break room dining tables were also left covered with dangerous levels of hexavalent chromium, the same chemical featured in the movie “Erin Brockovich.”

A company official promised to get a message to President and CEO Thomas Scott, who did not return the phone call.

In a statement, Nadira Janack, assistant area director for OSHA, said that “Aerospace Defense Coatings of Georgia was previously cited for the same violations and has failed to take action to protect workers from the hazards associated with hexavalent chromium exposure. Management needs to take immediate action to eliminate these hazards from the workplace.”

According to the citations, Aerospace Defense Coatings didn’t leave a place for employees to change their clothes to use protective gear. That spread contamination, with hexavalent chromium found on the steering wheel and interior door handle of an employee’s car. The fine in that citation, termed a willful violation, is proposed at $61,600.

The citations also include two alleged repeat violations, with proposed fines of $10,780 each. Over eight hours, one employee was allegedly exposed to average levels of hexavalent chromium at 41 micrograms per cubic meter, far above the federal limit of 5. The other citation comes from breakroom tables, where levels were found as high as 0.3565 micrograms, a level the agency says is too dirty.

The complaints stem from an October 2012 inspection, said Michael D’Aquino, an OSHA spokesman in Atlanta.

In 2011, OSHA agreed to reduce fines to about $168,000 after finding employees had been exposed to as many as 50 times the legal limits. The agency had proposed fines of $300,000 for 19 violations it called serious, repeated or willful.

OSHA says exposure to chromium can cause respiratory damage, lung cancer, skin rashes and chrome ulcers.

The company’s web site includes praise from Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. and Cessna Aircraft Co. The company said it’s also approved to serve hundreds of other companies including Delta Airlines, the Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin and NASA.

The company has 15 business days to comply, discuss or appeal the citations.

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Lancaster Airport (KLNS), Pennsylvania: Pilots here worry about not having extra eyes in the sky when tower closes

Victor Miasnikowicz, president of Venture Jets, sits inside the cockpit of a jet at Lancaster Airport, which will lose its air traffic control tower next month.
 (Marty Heisey/Staff)

Pilot John Calla knows that every move he makes is being watched. 

As Calla's plane is taxiing on the runway in preparation for takeoff, an air traffic controller with an overhead view of the Lancaster Airport grabs the radio to make sure Calla is aware another plane is about to cross his path.

But that safety net is disappearing.

The air-traffic tower at Lancaster Airport is scheduled to shut down May 5 as the Federal Aviation Administration tightens its budget under sequestration.

And although the airport will continue to operate as usual after the tower closes, local pilots acknowledge that it's always safer having an extra pair of eyes in the sky keeping watch over a runway that logs more than 90,000 landings and takeoffs a year.

"Would I rather have a tower there? Sure," said Calla, an instructor at Adventure Flight Training, a business that contributes to the airport's traffic. "You always want additional safety up there, but it's done at other airports."

All pilots are trained to manage takeoffs and landings without help by tuning into a specific radio frequency where they can communicate with other pilots in the area.

There is little doubt among local pilots, however, that stripping away the extra layer of safety during the most critical stages of flight increases risk.

"This means pilots needs to be that much more vigilant in what we do, when we do it and how we do it," said Dorn Clare, vice president of Henry Weber Aircraft. "It's simply a see-and-avoid procedure."

Presently, seven air traffic controllers take turns manning the Lancaster Airport tower from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

The controllers not only guide pilots but update them on weather conditions. They monitor radar and check on beeps that alert them that aircraft may be too close to each other.

Clare, who has been flying planes in and out of Lancaster since 1974, said his chief concern at the airport stems from its mix of small private planes and larger passenger aircraft that often converge on its airfields at different speeds and using different procedures.

The airport is home to a variety of aircraft operated by a wide array of experienced pilots, including charter helicopters flown by veteran pilots, commercial jets flown by professional pilots and single-engine planes flown by flight students.

Controllers keep those planes safely separated and sequenced for landings. During the summer, the airport can handle 40 to 60 landings and takeoffs an hour.

"A good way to look at it is this: Would you rather rely on stop signs at a busy intersection or a traffic light?" Calla asked.

Victor Miasnikowicz, president of Venture Jets, said the controllers provide crucial guidance that helps speed up operations.

The ability to leave quickly is a key part of his business, which must be ready at all times to transport organ donations to patients in critical need.

"The controllers have a hand in what we do, and to not have them there will mean longer wait times to get where we need to go," said Miasnikowicz, who has been a pilot for 25 years.

David Eberly, airport director, said he is still holding out hope that FAA officials will evaluate the true ramifications of closing so many towers.

"No one thinks this is a good idea. It's really opening airports up to possible disaster," he said.

There are 149 towers nationwide that will lose federal funding in an attempt to help offset FAA's $637 million budget reduction.

The cuts are not likely to impact commercial flights. The 149 contract towers handle less than 20 percent of all airport operations nationwide, but less than 2.5 percent of commercial operations, the FAA said in a press release.

The Smoketown Airport, the county's second-busiest airfield, operates without a controller. An airport official said the facility has less than 5,000 operations a year.

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Haystack Butte, Near Augusta - Montana: 35 years later, man still trying to solve plane crash mystery

Arden Van Horssen would appreciate knowing the outcome of this crash. If you have any information or memory of it, please call Erin Madison, at 791-1466 or email

Some 35 years ago, Arden Van Horssen was hunting near Augusta when through his binoculars he saw a flash of white on an opposite hillside.

It ended up being the wreckage of a small airplane.

When Van Horssen, a pilot himself, hiked to the crash site, he could tell the plane was upside down when it crashed into some large pine trees about 50 feet from the top of the mountain. However, other than the tips of the propeller being bent, the plane was almost unscathed.

“There was no real big damage to anything,” he said. “That plane landed beautifully upside down, almost like it was flown in there.”

And when he looked inside, the airplane appeared good as new.

“The cockpit, it wasn’t disturbed a bit,” Van Horssen said.

Nothing inside made it look like anyone had been injured. Even the upholstery remained untouched.

“I thought, by God, these people who were in there walked away,” he said.

But Van Horssen never did find out exactly what happened to the plane’s occupants, and he’s wondered about it ever since.

“My thought has been they could have walked away from that without any trouble,” he said. “My instinct tells me they did.”

Van Horssen remembers a pile of bones, near the plane, but whether they were human bones he has no way of knowing.

Even though its likely the plane’s occupants survived the crash, they still would have faced challenges to get back to civilization. The plane crashed in grizzly bear country and if the passengers did hike out, they had a high-flowing river to cross.

Before finding the wreckage, Van Horssen heard about a plane crash in the area. It was a family — two parents and two kids — flying from Great Falls to the west coast for Christmas. He thinks the plane crashed a year or two before he found it, likely the Christmas season of 1977 or ’78.

“We hadn’t been looking for it,” Van Horssen said of the wreckage. “When I found the plane it was completely by serendipity.”

Van Horssen, who was visiting Montana from his home in Minnesota, told the landowner whose property he was hunting on about the wreckage, but never heard any more about it.

The land, known as the Hidden Valley Ranch, was owned by Art Weikum. LeRoy Weikum, Art’s son, remembers hearing something about a plane crash on the property, but wasn’t living in Montana at the time.

“I remember there was a plane crash right behind the ranch,” said Weikum, of Great Falls. “I don’t know how many people were in it or even when it happened.”

He also doesn’t remember the fate of the passengers and pilot.

“I couldn’t tell you if they did or didn’t (survive),” he said.

He does remember his father saying that after the wreckage was found and reported to authorities, it was hauled away.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates every civil aviation accident in the United States, keeps an online database of plane crashes going back to 1963. None of the crashes in that database matches Van Horssen’s memory of the time frame, location and aircraft.

Van Horssen, now 95, has thought a lot about that plane crash since he found it probably in 1979, and has spent a lot of time wondering what happened to the family on board. He’d like to hike back to the crash site and take another look at whatever is left.

“I was really considering going back out there this year,” he said.

But at 95, he’s not sure he’d be able to make the trip.

“I was a lot younger when I was doing that,” said Van Horssen, who now lives in Arizona. “I’m still up and running around, but not very fast, I might add.”

Van Horssen would appreciate knowing the outcome of that crash. If you have any information or memory of it, please call Erin Madison, at 791-1466 or email


China's aviation 'supermarket' flies under restrictions

Photo: AFP

Beijing: Gleaming new helicopters and small planes worth millions of dollars are on show at Beijing's first "aircraft supermarket", but some wealthy private buyers will still face curbs when taking to the skies.

"Selling airplanes in China is as easy as selling cabbages," said Zhang Changyi, a manager at the "supermarket", standing beside an imported French helicopter.

The dealership opened this week in a cluster of buildings surrounded by farmland on the edge of the capital, offering a range of small aircraft aimed at business executives and priced at up to 50 million yuan (Rs. 43.5 crore).

Zhang hopes to profit from the growing ranks of wealthy Chinese aspiring to own private aircraft, even though airspace restrictions mean some customers will be flying in the face of the law.

"We've sold three aircraft in the last four days," he said, walking through a warehouse filled with gliders and light airplanes. "Our ideal customers are the heads of listed companies."

Private plane ownership in China is still miniscule compared to countries like the US. State media reported only 150 such aircraft registered in 2011, despite an estimated one million millionaires as a result of the nation's economic boom.

Facilities at the dealership are still basic despite the buyers' wealth. Instead of a high-tech control tower, the grassy runway - a recently converted field - is flanked by a tractor and several rabbit hutches.

Overseas aviation companies are itching to break into the emerging market, Zhang added. "I get calls from foreign air firms almost every day, they are desperate to sell in China," he said.

Chinese airspace is controlled by the military and only open to private fliers who pass through a complex approval system, although some buyers are happy to risk fines of 10,000 to 100,000 yuan for violating the rules.

Reports of "black flights", as the clandestine trips are known in Chinese media, reveal a wealthy elite paying out for the privilege of zooming to work in a private plane or helicopter.

"If I'm fined, then I'll pay up," said Dai Xiang, a 43-year-old businessman from the southwestern province of Sichuan, after buying a two-seater Slovenian "Pipistrel" plane.

He expects the days of "black flights" to end soon. "Regulations on low-altitude flying are becoming more relaxed... and I hope that continues," he told AFP.

As an initial move authorities will ease a ban on low-altitude flying in seven cities starting this year, state media reported.

Zhang said his customers can fly inside a four-kilometre area surrounding the brokerage - run by a Beijing flying club - at heights of up to 500 metres (1,650 feet), under an agreement with a local air force base.

"We all know that the skies need to be opened up, but some departments are reluctant," said a pilot at the school wearing a dark uniform and black aviator sunglasses, who asked not to be named because of his military connections.

"Things are becoming more open, it's an unstoppable trend," he added, before climbing into a pristine green helicopter, sending dust flying and rabbit ears twitching as he took to the air for a test flight.

There are also other challenges, such as imported aircraft rarely coming with Chinese documentation.

"The instruction manual is in Russian," the pilot said of a helicopter recently arrived from Ukraine. "We don't understand a word of it."


Helicopter Model Involved In Fatal Crash Has Troubling Track Record

MIAMI (CBS4) – The same model helicopter that crashed Wednesday in a Southwest Miami-Dade parking lot, killing its two passengers, has a devastating past that prompted the manufacturer to issue an order to fix to the fuel tanks. 

CBS4 News reported on problems with Robinson helicopters in the fall of 2008, two years after a deadly crash in the Dominican Republic that left four people dead.

Dominican and U.S. investigators determined the helicopter came apart when the skin on the rotor blade delaminated in mid-flight. The family of one of the victims, Delio Gonzalez, filed a lawsuit against Robinson claiming the company improperly made and tested the rotor blades.

“This is a public safety issue, a very preventable one,” Miami attorney Ervin Gonzalez said. “The risk isn’t just the people in the helicopters. They are flying over urban areas, big cities.”

Aviation attorneys have also sued Robinson claiming the gas tank on the choppers are improperly designed and will burst and catch fire even in low impact crashes.

“The existing tank is dangerously defective because when you have a crash it punctures the tank which is unprotected by any fuel bladder or casing,” said Ron Goldman, a Los Angeles based aviation attorney who has filed numerous lawsuits involving Robinson helicopters.

Goldman said the unprotected fuel tanks burst into flames. In the Miami crash, the chopper caught fire when it went down but from witness accounts it appears the two victims may have died before the fire started.

Robinson helicopters issued a retro-fit order to make the fuel tanks stronger, but owners have until April 30th to comply. It’s not known if the helicopter involved in the crash near Tamiami Airport had its fuel tank re-trofitted.

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Grand Rapids, Michigan: State Police Helicopter Spotted, Part of Training Exercise

KENT COUNTY, Mich – Several people contacted FOX17 Wednesday evening after spotting a police helicopter hovering over parts of the greater Grand Rapids area.

We contacted Michigan State Police, who tell us the helicopter is in the area for training.  There is a good chance the helicopter will be seen a few more times in the coming weeks for similar exercises.
On Wednesday afternoon, the police helicopter was in the right place at the right time, assisting Grand Rapids Police with a chase following a traffic stop along Grandville Avenue.

Budget cuts grounding fliers, airlines find

The federal budget ax that is known as the sequester is starting to hurt the airline industry.

While flights have not yet been canceled in response to the cuts, and there are not long lines at security screening in airports, including Philadelphia International, US Airways Group and Delta Air Lines said the federal spending cuts reduced March revenue due to fewer last-minute bookings.

US Airways said that passenger revenue for each "seat mile" flown was flat in March compared with March 2012. US Airways president Scott Kirby said the revenue drop was "believed to be driven largely by the sequester."

Delta reported the same thing on Tuesday, saying that March unit revenue fell short of expectations and pointed to "lower than expected close-in bookings driven by the sequester" as one of several reasons. Close-in bookings are tickets bought close to the date of departure, often a more expensive ticket and a manner of travel more common with business travelers.

The automatic budget cuts began taking effect on March 1. US Airways had expected revenue growth of 2 percent to 4 percent last month.

"US Airways has a fairly significant exposure to the Washington, D.C., area," with its military and other government customers, analyst Michael Derchin, of Capital Group L.L.C., said in a client note. "US Airways' management disclosed that the U.S. government results were down 'double digits' for the month."

US Airways operates 220 daily flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and caters to federal business travelers.

It's not just federal employees who are cutting back travel; it's also consultants and goverment contractors who believe the spending sequester will hurt their business.

Philadelphia International Airport has not seen an impact from the sequester, but CEO Mark Gale said there could be longer lines during peak summer travel, when furloughs, reduced overtime, and hiring freezes take hold at the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"The longer sequestration goes on, ultimately you may see some longer lines in security or to get through Customs, but as of right now we haven't seen any direct impacts," said Gale, after speaking at a Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday.

"As we see the heavy summer travel season - June, July and August - we'll be watching it very closely," Gale said.

The FAA has announced 149 traffic control towers will close at small airports nationwide, starting Sunday. The agency is losing $637 million in sequestration cuts through Sept. 30.

The closures include Trenton-Mercer Airport and, in Pennsylvania, control towers in Harrisburg, Latrobe and Lancaster. However, the airports plan to remain open because pilots are trained to take off and land by communicating on common radio frequency without ground controllers.

Frontier Airlines, which flies from Trenton to four Florida cities and New Orleans - and to five additional destinations beginning Monday - said it will operate normally in good weather. In inclement weather, Frontier said it may divert flights to another airport, such as in Philadelphia or Newark, N.J.


Imperiled Towers Fall in Safety for Low-Traffic Airports: Bloomberg

By Alan Levin on April 03, 2013

Smaller airport control towers that the U.S. government will begin closing April 7 haven’t reduced aircraft accidents, according to a federal analysis of crashes before and after the towers opened.

A study of more than 200 airports by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration obtained by Bloomberg contradicts previous agency findings and adds new fuel to the debate over the shutdown of 149 towers run by private contractors.

The FAA found almost identical numbers of accidents occurred near airports in the five-year period before a tower was opened compared with a five-year span afterward. The study examined accidents that occurred near more than 200 of the 251 airports operated by private firms under contract to FAA.

“I wouldn’t expect to see a big safety difference between controlled and uncontrolled airports,” John Hansman, an aeronautics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, said in an interview.

While having a controller on duty may help prevent accidents including mid-air collisions, those types of crashes are so rare that it would be difficult to spot in accident data, Hansman said.

“In general, towers that have low traffic levels should be able to go to uncontrolled procedures without any difficulty or increase in risk,” he said.

Shutting down a tower doesn’t close an airport. Pilots use a common radio frequency to speak with each other and coordinate landings, takeoffs and taxiing.

Closing Backlash

The FAA announced March 22 that it would close 149 towers because of mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, setting off a wave of lawsuits and objections from lawmakers seeking to halt the shutdowns. The FAA must cut $637 million from its $16 billion budget by Sept. 30, according to an agency release.

“The FAA determined that the agency’s long-standing procedures for ceasing operations of towers and the transfer of airspace between facilities will maintain safety at the airports that will no longer receive federal funding for on-site air traffic services,” Laura Brown, an agency spokeswoman, said in an e-mail yesterday.

Groups representing private pilots and the contract towers have denounced the closings as a threat to safety and the economic well-being of communities near airports.

Spencer Dickerson, executive director of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Contract Tower Association, declined to comment on the FAA safety analysis because he hadn’t seen it.

Previous Study

The group is convinced that having controllers improves safety because they can guide a lost pilot or act as a traffic cop if skies become too congested, Dickerson said in an interview.

An analysis posted online by the group estimated that closing the towers for the six months remaining in this fiscal year may cause as many as 216 deaths from increased accidents.

That total is about half of annual deaths in private-flight accidents, according to U.S. National Transportation Safety Board data.

Those additional accidents combined with a loss of efficiency at the airports would cost an estimated $2.5 billion, the analysis found. It was based on a 1990 study by the FAA that accidents would be about twice as likely at airports without a control tower.

A March 26 report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service concluded there would be a “relatively small” reduction in safety if towers closed, based on the 1990 FAA study. Because crash rates have declined since then, the 1990 report may overstate the risks, the CRS study said.

Crashes Comparable

The more recent FAA study casts doubt on whether adding a tower has the safety benefits that the agency originally thought and may influence debate over the contract tower program’s $150 million annual funding.

The new FAA study found 615 crashes occurred near airports in the five years before a contract tower was opened, compared with 618 in the same period afterward.

When only accidents that may be linked to a controller -- such as mid-air collisions and runway mishaps -- were considered, the results were similar. There were 94 such accidents before a tower and 99 afterward, according to the data.

More fatalities occurred prior to the opening of a contract tower, 21 deaths compared with two in the five-year period after towers began, according to FAA and NTSB data. Two accidents accounted for 15 of the 21 deaths.

Declining Flights

“The data doesn’t seem surprising to me,” Kevin Hiatt, president of the non-profit Flight Safety Foundation in Alexandria, Virgina, said in an interview.

Many towers are at airports with declining flight levels, where the safety may not be significantly altered by having a controller to guide planes, Hiatt said.

At the same time, the study didn’t shake Hiatt’s belief that towers bring order and safety at busier, more complex airports, he said.

“Are there some towers that could close down and safety wouldn’t be compromised? Absolutely,” Russell Mills, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio who studies aviation policy, said in an e-mail.

“But there are also a number of towers where there needs to be a deeper, site-specific look at the efficiency, operational, and safety impacts of closing a tower,” Mills said.

1980s Origin

Just as a stop light can reduce the risk of collisions at a busy intersection, towers protect planes at the busiest airports with contract facilities, Bruce Landsberg, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Air Safety Institute, said in an interview. AOPA is an advocacy group for private pilots based in Frederick, Maryland, and has criticized the tower closings.

Contract towers were created in the early 1980s as the FAA struggled to staff its air-traffic control system after President Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 striking controllers in 1981, according to the CRS report.

They are located at small- and mid-sized airports that typically cater to private pilots, with smaller numbers of charter and military flights. Of the 149 that will lose FAA funding, 13 averaged at least one scheduled airline arrival and departure per day in 2011, according to FAA data.

Towers operated by private firms cost an average of $1.5 million less per year than if the FAA staffed them, according to a 2012 report by the Transportation Department’s Inspector General.