The City of Macon may join other local governments across Georgia and the nation in a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration. They’re trying to keep control towers at their regional airports from closing as scheduled beginning June 15 as a result of sequestration cuts.
Cobb County’s McCollum Field is already involved in the lawsuit, and Gwinnett County plans to join over their airport in Lawrenceville. Nationwide, 148 control towers are set to close. Spokane, Washington is leading the suit.
"Safety has to be among our most important roles," said Macon City Councilor Rick Hutto, "particularly in the Macon airport which is literally directly across the road from Warner Robins Air Force Base."
Middle Georgia Regional Airport is owned by the City of Macon. The Macon City Council is set to vote Monday evening on whether to join the suit.
In initial court filings, lawyers for the FAA said the law gives them discretion over how to spend the money congress gives them, and it's ultimately up to airport operators to manage their own runways. But Hutto calls air traffic control "a core function of the federal government."
"It's not as though each municipality can, on its own do this," he said. "It has to be a system that is routinized by the federal government. So what we’re saying is, ‘yes we might indeed have to take on some other rolls here at the local level or the state level, but air traffic control is not one of them."
The case will eventually be heard in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California, if it gets that far. Hutto said he hopes the threat will prompt Congress to take action, as lawmakers did on Friday when they moved to end air traffic controller furloughs at major airports that have caused widespread delays.