EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 6, 2013

Tower closing delayed at least two months

By Mark E. Vogler
mvogler@eagletribune.com

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Officials at Lawrence Municipal Airport learned yesterday that their air traffic control tower will not close tomorrow as a casualty of federal budget cuts, but will remain open for at least two more months.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it has delayed the closing of 149 airport control towers around the country until June 15.

“Obviously, I’m very happy to hear about this,” Lawrence Municipal Airport manager Michael Miller said.

“It gives time for more deliberative thought to go into on the appropriateness of closures — also more time to develop and implement procedures and safety plans that will be necessary because of the closures. I’m also glad for the air traffic controllers who are not going to get laid off,” Miller said.

The FAA announced last month it would eliminate funding for these towers as part of the agency’s required $637 million in forced spending cuts.Tower closures had been scheduled to begin Sunday and were to have been phased in over four weeks.

The lack of a control tower will not shut down the airport.The tower at Lawrence Municipal operates from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. At night, pilots can activate the runway lights and report their position to other fliers.

Miller noted that there’s still a chance to block the delay. The American Association of Airport Executives has filed a lawsuit that would force the FAA to study the impact of the closures on the nation’s airport system.

Meanwhile, two U.S. senators plan to file legislation next week that will prohibit the U.S. Department of Transportation from closing any air traffic control towers — including those that are FAA-operated.

“While airports and air travelers across the country are breathing a sigh of relief, the Department of Transportation’s decision to delay the closing of air traffic control towers is not a solution,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said.

“Closing control towers is equivalent to removing stop lights and stop signs from our roads, and there is no reason they should be disproportionately targeted for an arbitrary and unfair 75 percent cut. It’s vital that we seize this opportunity to put politics aside and work toward a common-sense solution,” Moran said.

Sens. Moran and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also introduced an amendment to the Senate Democratic Budget Resolution that would make it easier to restore federal funding in FY 2014 for air traffic control towers slated to be closed by the FAA as a result of budget cuts.