Furloughs not affecting TCRA operations

Hank Hayes • Apr 27, 2013 at 12:54 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Federal sequester-related air traffic controller furloughs haven’t yet affected flights at Tri-Cities Regional Airport, but travelers should expect to see delays at large hub airports, acting TCRA Executive Director David Jones said Thursday.

“We’ve not noticed any impact locally but the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has taken one (furlough) day per pay period for their (air traffic controllers),” Jones said before an Airport Authority meeting. “I think if it continues long term, we may see some effect down the road.”

In a statement released Wednesday, FAA officials said they are implementing “traffic management initiatives” at airports to lessen the effect of those air traffic controller furloughs.

“Travelers can expect to see a wide range of delays that will change throughout the day depending on staffing and weather-related issues,” the FAA statement said. “... Controllers will space planes farther apart so they can manage traffic with current staff, which will lead to delays at airports including Chicago O’Hare, Las Vegas and Tampa. The FAA also expects delays at a number of other airports because of weather and winds.”

FAA is encouraging all travelers to check their flight status and also to visit fly.faa.gov for the latest airport delay information.

“(On Tuesday) more than 1,025 delays in the system were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furloughs. There were more than 975 additional delays as a result of weather and other factors,” the FAA statement added.

While the effects of the sequester unfold, TCRA is dealing with a leadership transition and transition from the old Airport Commission governing structure to the Airport Authority.

Airport legal counsel Bill Bovender told authority commissioners the airfield property transfer to the authority awaits FAA approval, in addition to the transfer of the airport’s $7 million debt to the new governing ent i t y.

Incoming Airport Authority Chairman Jim Rector, the former mayor of Bristol, Va., also noted the new executive director search is well under way.

TCRA has employed ADK Executive Search of Atlantic Beach, Fla., to seek and vet TCRA executive director candidates to replace Patrick Wilson, who left for a management position at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

ADK landed Wilson, who had led TCRA for eight years, for the Raleigh job.

Jones, TCRA’s director of operations , became acting executive director on April 1 and has indicated he may seek the position on a full-time basis.

ADK is expected to come up with three to five finalists to be screened by commissioners on an Airport Authority Executive Committee. The committee’s choice to run TCRA would have to be voted on by Airport Authority commissioners.

Challenges faced by the next executive director include a continuing tight operating budget that will be negatively impacted by closing the main runway two weekends for resurfacing this September.

All flight operations will be shut down during the runway work, which means TCRA will lose an estimated $67,000 in landing fees during the period, authority commissioners were advised.

For more, go to www.triflight.com  .

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