Gillibrand: Don’t Move Air Traffic Control Jobs Away From Elmira-Corning Airport

April 23, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Statement From Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to keep Air Traffic Control (ATC) operations at the Binghamton and Elmira-Corning airports. This push comes after a recent report, the National Facilities Realignment and Consolidation Report, recommended that the FAA relocate ATC TRACON operations away from Greater Binghamton Airport (BGM) and Elmira Corning Regional Airport (ELM) to Scranton-Wilkes Barre Airport (AVP) in Pennsylvania. Gillibrand warned that this move would result in the loss of local jobs in the Southern Tier and in the loss of regional airspace expertise, and urged the FAA to reconsider this consolidation.

“The Binghamton and Elmira-Corning airports are invaluable assets to the Southern Tier. It would be a detrimental loss to the region if the FAA were to follow through on the recent recommendations to relocate vital ATC operations to Pennsylvania,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This would put good Southern Tier jobs at risk and would also result in the loss of regional expertise that our local air controllers have built over the years. Binghamton and Elmira-Corning’s air controllers keep our air space safe, and I am urging the FAA the reconsider this consolidation.”

According to the National Facilities Realignment and Consolidation Report, ATC towers with Local Control would remain at both the Binghamton and Elmira-Corning airports, while TRACON, which manages the airspace outside of the Local Control perimeter, would be remotely controlled in Pennsylvania. This consolidation would cause half of the air controllers at Binghamton and Elmira-Corning to lose their jobs, resulting in a loss in local salaries totaling $1 million per year. Additionally, ATC consolidation would also result in the loss of institutional knowledge of the regional airspace, as controllers at the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Airport lack the regional familiarity and knowledge of local controllers currently based in Binghamton and Elmira-Corning.

While the recommendation to consolidate TRACON operations to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Airport was made to save money, Gillibrand noted that since Local Control would remain at both Binghamton and Elmira-Corning’s existing towers, the resulting savings could be less than predicted. The report also notes that one cost-saving measure in its recommended plan is the Scraton-Wilkes Barre Airport’s upgraded Standard Terminal Automation system. However, Gillibrand emphasized that this system has already been upgraded at both the Binghamton and Elmira-Corning Airports, allowing the operations to be as efficient in the Southern Tier as the would be in Pennsylvania. Since the potential cost to the Southern Tier that could result from the recommended consolidation may not outweigh the benefits, Gillibrand wrote to the FAA and urged them to maintain operations as they are at both Binghamton and Elmira-Corning airports.

The full text of Gillibrand’s letter can be found here and below:

April 23, 2019

The Honorable Daniel K. Elwell
Acting Administrator
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591

Dear Administrator Elwell,

Following the recent release of National Facilities Realignment and Consolidation Report, I am writing to request that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reconsider its recommendation to relocate Air Traffic Control (ATC) operations from both Binghamton Greater Airport (BGM) and Elmira Corning Regional Airport (ELM) to Pennsylvania’s Scranton-Wilkes Barre Airport (AVP). This consolidation will result in the loss of good-paying local jobs in the Southern Tier of New York and could impact overall service and safety.

According to the report’s recommendation, ATC towers with Local Control would remain at both Binghamton and Elmira-Corning airports, while TRACON, which manages the airspace outside of the Local Control perimeter, would be remotely controlled in Pennsylvania. I am concerned that controllers at the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Airport lack the regional familiarity and knowledge of local controllers currently based in Binghamton and Elmira-Corning.

The consolidation of ATC operations would also result in the loss of good-paying local jobs and consequently have a damaging impact on the Southern Tier economy. At both Binghamton and Elmira-Corning airports, nearly half of each location’s controller positions are expected to be cut, resulting in a $1 million loss in local salaries. Further, for the controllers who would retain their jobs, the salaries for these positions are expected to decrease as the facilities will likely be reduced from a Class 5 to a Class 4 workforce.

Finally, this recommendation was made based on rationale that the FAA could realize significant savings resulting from could be smaller than predicted by the report. The report also touts the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Airport’s upgraded Standard Terminal Automation System, which is predicted to reduce the cost of ATC operations even further. Yet this system has already been upgraded at both Binghamton and Elmira-Corning airports, rendering these operations just as efficient in the Southern Tier as they would be in Pennsylvania. Given this, it is questionable whether small cost savings of would outweigh the negative economic impact on the community and safety.

I strongly urge you to reconsider this relocation and consolidation for the benefit of the Southern Tier community and the safety of New York’s pilots and passengers alike. Thank you for your serious consideration of this request, and I look forward to receiving your response.