Browards aviation department plans to appeal the closure of North Perry in Pembroke Pines, citing the complex runway demands there. Five flight schools operate out of the airport, along with companies that tow advertising banners behind planes and blimp operators. Add in the airports location straddling the air space between MIA and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, and Broward feels it has a chance to keep federally contracted controllers on the job next month.
Its an extra set of eyes at the tower thats going to be gone, said Ismael Bonilla, deputy director of Broward Countys aviation department. Im a pilot myself. It gets very challenging when you dont have that extra set of eyes the tower gives you.
The full implications of the towers closures arent known. Both airports would continue to operate under the same protocol that governs smaller airports without towers, such as the one in Homestead. Opa-locka sees about 110,000 take-offs and landings a year while North Perry, with its flight schools, sees almost 130,0000.
Along with daily flight operations, the pending cutbacks have companies throughout South Floridas aviation industry speculating how theyll operate without a fully-staffed FAA.
Its going to cause some real problems, said Matthew Winer, director of Jet Management Associates, a Miami Beach firm that acquires and manages private jets for clients who want to charter their aircraft when not in use.
The cutbacks would delay safety inspections of charter planes, Winer said, since some screenings require sign-off by three different FAA employees. The process that can take anywhere from two weeks to a few months under regular circumstances, and the looming cuts have Winer bracing for much longer waits.
Every day that you dont have a plane on charter, youre going to lose money, Winer said.