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February 27. 2013 9:55PM

Nashua airport awaits Congressional action on sequestration

NASHUA - Less then a year after the federal government finished spending $25 million of stimulus money to complete an extension on the Nashua Municipal Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration is threatening to cut the airport's funding for its control tower.

The airport - the second busiest in the state - is on a list released by the FAA of more than 100 airports nationally that would lose federal funding should Congress be unable to reach a deal to avert sequestration cuts by the deadline of Friday.

"Our argument is you just spent $25 million to make this a better and safer place and now you have to turn your back on it?" said Gordon Jackson, of the board of directors of the Nashua Airport Authority, he added, "That is just bad business, and the last thing the government wants, after they make a decision like this, is for a deadly situation to arise."

Jackson said the potential closure of the control tower could hurt a number of small businesses that operate out of the Nashua Airport, forcing many of them to move to an airport that has a control tower like the one in Manchester.

"We don't know if the cuts will happen, we suspect highly that they will, I am assuming that Congress and the White House aren't going to get their acts together before midnight," Jackson said.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, said she was working to avoid the sequester cuts, adding, "we can replace the arbitrary sequester cuts with smarter alternative savings, and I'm continuing my work in the Senate to do just that."

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, called the potential sequester cuts, "the wrong way to deal with our deficit. These indiscriminate cuts threaten our economy and our national defense. I remain very concerned about the impact of these automatic cuts, and I continue to believe that we need a balanced approach when it comes to addressing the deficit."

Jackson was adamant that if the cuts happen the airport will explore every avenue to keep the control tower open.

"If the cuts happen we would have, I think 30 days minimum, to prepare for the termination of the contract regarding FAA services to the tower. This gives us additional time to avert this particular closure and solve this for everyone's benefit."

However, Jackson said that if the tower must close, the airport would remain open, "but many of these businesses are small businesses. They keep getting called fat cats, but they are basically taxi companies. If they start to lose money and their insurance goes up they will leave and take their business with them, hurting Nashua.

"This would drive them to Manchester, which would be good for Manchester, but they are busy as it is, there would be too much traffic, we are a reliever airport for Manchester and Boston, which makes everyone safer," he said.

Jackson said if the tower were to close, the problems it would create would extend far beyond the region.

"We are also an emergency field in case of an in-air crisis, without a tower we can't do that or provide help. Organs for transplants get transported through here, and without a tower they wouldn't land in bad weather like this, they don't want to deal with the issues of not having air traffic control."

bklein@newstote.com



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