Airport Executives Association President Says Nearly Half Of The Nation’s Control Towers May Close – Airports with 150,000 or fewer operations per year are in danger of losing their control towers due to sequestration, affecting as many as 168 airports across the country.
The president of the American Association of Airport Executives said in an interview with Bloomberg News that the FAA plans to close 168 towers operated by contractors beginning April 1, with another 21 to close on September 30 if the budget situation is not resolved. The number represents three-quarters of the towers that are operated by private companies. The FAA began outsourcing control tower operations in 1982 as a cost-saving measure. There are 49 towers that fall under the FAA’s purview that may also be shut down.
Bloomberg reports that only 15 of the airports handle fewer than 55 operations per day. But St. Lucie County International Airport in Fort Pierce, FL, which is also on the tower closure list, saw 137,689 operations in 2011, is an entry point for flights arriving from the Bahamas, and has a flight school on the field, making for a diverse mix of traffic. That tower is operated by FAA controllers.
Regional Airline Association spokeswoman Kelly Murphy told Bloomberg that the association expects to see reductions in capacity and efficiency at airports where the towers are closed, some of which do see a handful of regularly-scheduled airline flights. But she said that those flights will be allowed to continue operating at those airports.