The Boca Raton Airport Authority met this morning at Boca Raton City Hall to conduct an "emergency meeting" regarding potential closing of the control tower located at the Boca Raton Airport due to the federal sequestration. The federal government has named 173 general aviation airports to be slated to end their Contract Tower Program under the recent federal government budget cuts signed by President Obama.
The entire board showed up which is an improvement over last month's regular meeting of the Authority as it was cancelled due to a lack of board members attending. The meeting began with airport manager Ken Day addressing the board over the impact closing the tower would have to the airport itself and the surrounding community. Day's summary report was followed by some public comment in favor of keeping the tower open, mostly for safety reasons. The emphasis of the meeting and the potential closure of the tower was all about safety with exception to the co-owner of Boca Aviation and a representative from Signature Flight Support addressing the financial costs should the tower close.
For all the talk of safety, there was never any safety data presented to show whether the airport itself and the surrounding area has benefited from installation of the tower 13 years ago. The data wasn't presented because the data simply does not exist. The airport operated for decades without a control tower. The general consensus of those in attendance was that the federal government would not close the airport tower in April as currently scheduled and if it did not, then the Airport Authority has enough in reserves to keep it open for a period of time.
The most astute public comment came from Neil Haynie, a long time pilot flying out of Boca Airport for over 60 years who recently crashed his plane there. Haynie suggested this is a good time to perhaps move away from federal funding of the airport tower and fund it locally. At a cost of approximately $650,000 per year Haynie suggested we "take this opportunity to get away from the strings attached to federal money."
Ultimately everyone on the Board recommended the sending out of a letter to the federal government they strongly disapprove of closing the control tower. At their regularly scheduled monthly meeting happening on March 20, 2013, the Airport Authority is expected to look at Haynie's suggestion as well as conduct other business.