FAA said it will delay the closures of 149 US federal contract air traffic control towers from April 7 until June 15 to “allow the agency to attempt to resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions.”
Last month, FAA announced it would eliminate funding for these towers as part of the agency’s required $637 million in budget cuts by Sept. 30 under sequestration. A phased, four-week closure process was scheduled to begin April 7.
“That phased closure process will no longer occur,” FAA said. “Instead, the FAA will stop funding all 149 towers on June 15 and will close the facilities unless the airports decide to continue operations as a nonfederal contract tower.”
The towers scheduled for closure are run by certified FAA contractors at smaller US airports that mostly handle general and business aviation traffic, though a small percentage of commercial flights would be affected.
“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” US transportation secretary Ray LaHood said. “Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”
The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and its affiliate, the US Contract Tower Association, are among those seeking to stop the closures via court action. AAAE said in a statement that the decision to postpone the closures “is a welcome development.”