Federal Aviation Administration offers extension of June 15 to close air traffic control towers

The 149 small airports across the country, including four in Oklahoma, now have more time to pursue alternative funding to keep their towers open.
by Jennifer Palmer Published: April 5, 2013
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Keren McLendon, chief financial officer of RVA, which employs more 500 air traffic controllers at 96 airports, said its employees were “very relieved and happy” to hear the FAA announcement. Many of them would have been out of a job Monday.

The company's managers were busy Friday afternoon calling all the control towers to let the workers know.

“We are cautiously optimistic that this will give everybody more time to find resources,” she said.

In its announcement, the FAA said about 50 airport authorities and other stakeholders want to fund the tower operations themselves, and the extension will allow them time to work out plans to do so.

“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”

Legal obstacles

The agency also said it needed more time to deal with legal challenges to the closures. Airport operators in several states and the U.S. Contract Tower Association, which represents the companies that operate contract towers, have filed lawsuits with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington seeking to halt the closures.

In its original schedule, the FAA planned to gradually phase in the closures over a month. Under the new plan, all closures will be implemented June 15.

CONTRIBUTING:

Brianna Bailey, Business Writer; Associated Press.

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by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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TIMELINE

A look at the FAA's decisions on the closures:

• March 22: FAA announces it will eliminate funding for 149 contract towers nationwide.

• Sunday: Under the earlier plan, tower closures were expected to begin.

• June 15: Tower closures will be implemented, according to a new announcement.

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