Amendment Could Halt FAA Closure of Control Towers

FAAContract TowerAn amendment put forth by two Republican senators could stave off the closings of 200 control towers at smaller airports around the U.S., including Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and Sen. James Inofe, R-Okla., co-sponsored an amendment to a continuing resolution that seeks to restore about $50 million in funding for the contract control tower program that was cut in the Federal Aviation Administration's response to the sequester's automatic spending reductions. It also would take away $50 million of the FAA's research and capital funding.

The contract tower program funds private-sector controllers instead of FAA employees to work lower-traffic airports. It was cut 75 percent instead of the 5 percent to 8 percent agency-wide, advocates say.

The amendment is scheduled to be voted on later Thursday and then go back to the House of Representatives. It would have to clear the House and then be signed by President Barack Obama to take effect.

There's clearly a clock ticking with the control towers. Sources have said the FAA will make its final determination Monday on the number of control towers closing and then make the announcement later in the week, probably Wednesday.

The Airport Commission of Forsyth County yesterday submitted an appeal letter to the FAA, urging the organization to reconsider its decision to close the air traffic control tower at Smith Reynolds.

The FAA plans to close most of the towers on April 7, leaving the airports open but with what critics say will be an impact on safety and local economies.

"(It's the) last chance to keep the towers open," Joel Bacon, vice president of the Airport Legislative Alliance and the American Association of Airport Executives, said Thursday.

Source: Paul J. Gough Web Producer- Pittsburgh Business Times

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