Pragmatists and conservatives have long looked on with wonder at how adept Washington, D.C., is at spending our money. We barely blink an eye at millions sent to Morocco for pottery lessons or equal amounts spent developing robotic squirrels.
What is a bit of a surprise, however, is to discover that they are equally adept at finding stupid ways to NOT spend money. The closing of the control tower at Boire Field (Nashua's airport) is a perfect case study.
As a licensed pilot for the last 23 years or so, I have called Boire my home base. A vibrant airport and community, it is still recovering in spirit and finance from the closing of the flight programs at Daniel Webster College. Even without the college, though, it is a busy airport, with tens of thousands of "operations" each year. Single-engine planes, multi-engine planes, and corporate jet traffic all are there.
The airport just had a new runway constructed at a cost of $26 million. Not that there was anything wrong with the "old" runway ... it just didn't meet recently enhanced FAA setback requirements from the nearest taxiway. The new runway, lighting, taxiways and signage did nothing to improve safety or allow larger aircraft, they simply got the airport in compliance with FAA regulations.
It is hard enough to get your head around the notion of making such a significant investment of infrastructure at a small airport; but couple that with the subsequent and imminent closing of the control tower there, and we have a perfect case of Big Government in action.
There are many small airports without towers where airplanes come and go safely every day, with diligent pilots announcing their position, altitude, direction and intentions. I submit to you that Nashua is not small enough for that. I wonder to whom the liability will fall when the inevitable occurs there.
The airspace at Nashua comingles with that of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Approaching passenger jets are at the same or similar altitudes as general aviaton traffic in and around Nashua. On a busy summer day, it is a workout for both pilot and controllers to maintain order. It is hard for me to imagine how this airspace will function safely without that skilled guidance. Not many years ago, there was a fatal mid-air crash at Fitchburg, Mass., a much smaller airport in terms of traffic, and also an airport with a shuttered tower.
It's all part of the "Sequester Punishment" package being handed down by President Obama. It may be my imagination, but it seems that the cuts are aimed at certain segments of the population. One of the first things to go was tours by the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels. Expensive, to be sure, but putting a huge wet blanket on an American tradition, and squelching one of the few opportunities we taxpayers ever get to see how our dollars are spent, and a chance to express our pride and gratitude to those who serve and have served.
I'm a bit surprised that lawyers are not already setting up kiosks on the tarmac, anticipating the proposed April 7 closing of the tower, which coincides nicely with the onset of great flying weather!
This is not to be the harbinger of doom or wish disaster to prove a point, but I expect the Nashua airport will be back in the news sooner, rather than later.
Karl M. Zahn, a former talk show host at WSMN in Nashua, is a regular co-host on "The Dennis Miller Show" with Dennis Miller (including next Thursday from 12-1 p.m.), and a regular panel member on Fox News' "Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld."