The FAA—and its parent agency, the Department of Transportation—today announced that it will keep open the 149 contract towers that the agency slated for closure on June 15. These cuts were to be made to comply with sequestration, but on April 26 Congress gave the FAA the authority to shift funds to stop controller furloughs and, possibly, contract tower closures.
In a statement, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said his agency “has determined that the recently enacted Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 will allow the FAA to transfer sufficient funds to end employee furloughs and keep the 149 low-activity contract towers originally slated for closure in June open for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. The FAA will also put $10 million toward reducing cuts and delays in core NextGen programs and will allocate approximately $11 million to partially restore the support of infrastructure in the National Airspace System.”
“NATA is very pleased about this and believes it was the correct decision by the FAA,” said association president and CEO Thomas Hendricks. “The contract tower program is one of the most cost effective and efficient safety programs under the FAA’s purview.”
This latest move comes just one day after the FAA told AIN that it “decided not to pursue the elimination of midnight shifts at FAA towers at this time.” Also as part of sequester-mandated cuts announced in late February, the FAA had planned to eliminate overnight shifts at 72 air traffic control facilities, including those at Chicago Midway Airport.