Saturday, May 11, 2013

Safe Landing: FAA Shifts Funds To Keep Airport Control Towers Open

Posted By on Sat, May 11, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Control towers at Idaho's medium-sized airports—along with other facilities across the nation—won a reprieve Friday when the Federal Aviation Administration decided not to follow through with its threat to shut down operations in the shadow of the U.S. government's sequestration cuts.
Four airports—in Hailey, Idaho Falls, Lewiston and Pocatello—have control towers operated by contractors for the FAA and had been scheduled to close June 15. But the Associated Press reports that the towers will remain open at least through September 30, which is the end of the current federal budget year. The FAA was granted authority to shift more than $250 million from accounts with unspent funds to keep the air traffic controllers on the job.

But some cuts are looming: the FAA promised to spend $10 million to invest in more satellite navigation which would shift air traffic control away from local radar-based navigation to greater control at the regional level.

Of the nation's 5,000 public airports, only about 10 percent have regularly manned control towers. And 200 of the small- to medium-sized airports have towers operated by private contractors at an annual cost of more than $500,000 each.

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