Miami Executive Aviation broke ground Monday on Opa-locka Executive Airport's new $4.7 million state-of-the-art business aviation hangar, but federal sequester cuts could force the airport to close a new $12 million control tower. NBC 6's Ari Odzer speaks to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, airport pilots and air traffic controllers.
Miami Executive Aviation broke ground Monday at Opa-locka Executive Airport for a new $4.7 million state-of-the-art business aviation hangar.
The facility will have space to host business class jets, offices and support areas.
But aviation and government authorities also worry about federal sequester cuts, which could force the airport to close a new $12 million control tower.
“If you are a commercial pilot or a corporate pilot you want to have a controlled airfield,” said Guillermo Lares of Miami Executive Air.
The tower is expected to close in three weeks as part of the automatic spending cuts mandated by the federal government. Two other towers are also expected to close in South Florida.
“It’s kind of penny wise and pound foolish, you’re really not saving all that much money by closing it down,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “But you’re really impacting a whole area because of your actions.”
Opa-locka Executive Airport is home to one of the busiest Coast Guard rescue bases in the nation. It’s also where Miami-Dade’s air rescue helicopter is based.
“The tower is there for a purpose, it’s there to increase safety,” said pilot Martin Williams, who is concerned about flying to the airport if the tower closes.
Last year, the tower handled about 108,000 flights. Closing the tower would mean those pilots would be on their own and traffic controllers could lose their jobs.
“It’s not like you can apply for another air traffic control job when they’re already cutting them,” said Gary Barton, an air traffic controller.
By closing the Opa-locka tower, the federal government would be saving an estimated $56,000 a month.
“If they have to cut it because of their budget problems, I’m going to ask them to see if we can go ahead and fund it ourselves,” said Gimenez. “It’s very important we keep this tower open.”
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