Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) today sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concerning the announced closure of the air traffic control tower at the W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek. The general aviation airport is home to many, including the Battle Creek Air National Guard 110th Airlift Wing, Western Michigan University's (WMU) College of Aviation, and major local employer Duncan Aviation. In his letter, Upton highlights the economic importance and strategic significance of the airport to Southwest Michigan and beyond. Upton has spoken with WMU President John Dunn and other local leaders concerning the detrimental impact the closure will have on the economy and the training the next generation of American pilots.
Given the wide importance of the Battle Creek facility, Upton asks the FAA to explain how the decision to close the air traffic control tower was made. Upton also raises issue with the fact that the recently passed continuing budget resolution (H.R. 933) for Fiscal Year 2013 grants agencies, including the FAA, flexibility to reprogram and reprioritize funding under the March 1 budget sequester.
The full text of Upton's letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta follows:
March 27, 2013
The Honorable Michael Huerta
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
Dear Administrator Huerta:
I am writing today regarding the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) announced closure of the air traffic control tower at the W.K. Kellogg Airport (BTL) in Battle Creek, Michigan. I am deeply disappointed by this decision and equally concerned by the adverse impact it will have on both regional and national interests.
As you are aware, the W.K. Kellogg Airport is a large non-commercial, general aviation facility and the location of the Battle Creek Air National Guard 110th Airlift Wing. Ensuring normal operation of the Battle Creek airport is essential to the mission of the Air National Guard and U.S. military operations.
The W.K. Kellogg Airport is also home to both Western Michigan University's (WMU) College of Aviation and local employer Duncan Aviation. From its state-of-the-art facilities in Battle Creek, WMU operates one of the most prestigious flight programs in the nation. As the third-largest aviation school in the country, WMU fulfills a critical need to train the next generation of American pilots. Duncan is the largest privately owned aircraft remanufacturing plant in North America, employing more than 500 workers at its Battle Creek facility. The company is also host to many international customers who regularly depend on being able to fly into the airport.
Any actions that jeopardize the safety and efficiency of the W.K. Kellogg Airport would have a detrimental economic impact in our region and beyond.
According to data provided by the FAA's online Air Traffic Activity Data System (ATADS), the W.K. Kellogg Airport totaled 81,337 operations during 2012. Given the strong economic, educational, and national security interests invested in the Battle Creek operation as well as its active use, the methodology used by the FAA in determining its closures demands greater explanation.
The case of Battle Creek also begs a larger question of how the sequester cuts are being implemented at the FAA. On March 26, 2013, the President signed into law a continuing budget resolution (H.R. 933) to fund the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. As you well know, that six-month appropriation grants federal agencies, including the FAA, the authority and flexibility to reprioritize funding and avoid closing air traffic control towers.
As a matter of great importance to the people and businesses of Southwest Michigan, I would appreciate your consideration of these issues and look forward to your timely response. Should you have any questions or require additional information from my office, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, DC office for assistance: (202) 225-3761.
Member of Congress
cc: The Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportatio