March 08. 2013 12:22AM

Businesses signal fears about Nashua Airport tower shutdown

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA - With sequestration cuts threatening to close the Nashua Municipal Airport control tower early next month, businesses at the airport are worried about the impact the closure could have on their bottom line - and safety.

While members of the Airport Authority work to try to convince the Federal Aviation Administration not to close the tower, which is one of 189 towers nationally scheduled to close on April 7, many business owners say they fail to understand how the government can close the tower after finishing $25 million worth of renovations to the airport less then a year ago. Ed Luppi, director of operations for OIA Aircorp, said his main concern is safety, not business.

"We're operating a corporate flight department here with a corporate jet, and not having a tower creates safety issues we have to consider. The lack of having eyes on the field when we are flying in the area of the airport and lack of a tower makes the airport an uncontrolled field.

The people in the control tower help keep traffic moving in an orderly fashion instead of pilots just communicating with each other.

The commingling of recreational traffic with commercial traffic can be confusing at times, especially for lesser-experienced pilots," Luppi said.

With four employees and one corporate jet, Luppi said that while OIA wouldn't be forced to move if the tower closure occurs.

"Not having a tower here could absolutely affect business negatively," said Bill Psaledakis, operations manager for Nashua Jet Aviation.

While the closure of the tower wouldn't force the business to move, Psaledakis said, that is only because "we have so many buildings on the airport, we're tied into this location."

"The federal government just spent $25 million on the new runway to entice new business, and now they are closing the tower? That is not the way to entice business here," he said.

Scott Wharem, owner of Harvest Aviation, said that changing to operating out of an uncontrolled airport will be an adjustment and that the loss of the tower has the potential to hurt his bottom line.

"While I can't say with any certainty that it will hurt us, I find it interesting they are closing the tower based on (takeoffs and landings numbers) that are significantly higher now than when the tower was first put in. (Takeoff and landing numbers) were much lower when they first thought we needed one," Wharem said.

Donald Davidson, chairman of the commissioners of the Airport Authority, agreed business and safety at the airport could be adversely affected by the closure of the tower.

"The Nashua Airport has about 60,000 operational movements each year, with a mix of small and corporate jets," Davidson said.

Davidson added that the Airport Authority is working on a plan to convince the FAA to delay or cancel the closure.

He said Nashua Airport is unique and should not be under FAA consideration for closure.

"Our economic concerns are shared by airports across the country, but the difference is the federal government just spent $25 million on the airport for safety reasons and within four months of work being finished they want to shut down the tower? It will be a tough fight, but we will fight it," he said.