Fullerton Airport Faces Losing ATC Controller Funds

FULLERTON – City officials to vote on whether to send a letter asking that funding not be threatened.

A proposed cut in federal funding for contract air-traffic controllers at non-commercial airports across the country would make the airspace around Fullerton Municipal Airport dangerous, an airport spokesman said Monday. 

In Fullerton, removing the air-traffic controllers would save the federal government $500,000.

Airport Manager Rod Propst said 300 private planes are based at the airport, which annually has 65,000 operations (the combined number of take-offs and landings).

Propst said the number of operations is relatively low, but the Fullerton airport also coordinates air traffic for news helicopters tracking traffic on the I-5, 91 and 57 freeways. Without funding, Propst said pilots would have to fend for themselves.

“The primary responsibility of the air-traffic controller is to separate aircraft in that airspace so that they don’t occupy the same airspace at the same time,” said Propst, adding that the airport will stay open even without an operating tower. “We wouldn’t have that anymore in the busiest airspace in the nation.”

Additionally, the Fullerton Municipal Airport is a designated reliever airport for John Wayne Airport, taking in smaller planes to ease air traffic for the Santa Ana airport.

“By limiting the safety factor at Fullerton, some of the planes won’t come here because there won’t be a tower,” Propst said. “They will go to John
Wayne and clog the airspace and then that will overflow into LAX.”

The airport has asked the City Council to draft a letter of protest to both U.S. senators and to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez to ask for support. The
council is scheduled to vote on whether to send a letter at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“If this airport was in the middle of Montana, and the only reason you would come here is to come here, you could say safety is not really a factor,”
Propst said. “If you take this tower away, the constituents that live around the airport and in the area are much less safe.”

If the federal government eliminates funding, the city could choose to pay to staff the tower.

  • Fullerton Municipal Airport
  • Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Planes based there: 300
  • Controllers: One, from 7 to 10 a.m.; two, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Who are the controllers?: former military or retired FAA controllers

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