The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has confirmed that 149 contract air traffic control towers planned for closure next month as a result of federal budget cuts will instead remain open to September 30, the end of the financial year in the US.
The reprieve will give time for the DOT and the FAA to develop a more considered contingency plan should the towers close after that date if resolution to so-called budget sequestration is not found.
Announcement of the intended closures rallied industry and safety authorities to decry the decision at the highest levels of the US government.
Applauding the decision to suspend the closures, the National Business Aviation Association said legislation introduced earlier this month in the US House of Representatives and Senate, entitled the “Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013,” provided authority for the FAA and DOT to reallocate up to US$253 million in available funds.
“That intent of the legislation was underscored in congressional letters, signed by 82 house representatives and 41 senators, calling on (DOT Secretary) LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to keep the towers open.”
In a separate letter to the FAA administrator, 70 mayors and other community officials said: “Aviation and our local airports are a critical economic lifeline for these communities, and we simply cannot afford this type of devastating blow at a time when our communities are already struggling to recover.”