The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision to end funding to 149 federal contract towers to conform with budget sequestration has some airports pursuing legal options.
Last week, the Spokane, Wash. airport board petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to delay the planned closure of the tower at Felts Field, asserting that the agency “failed to follow its own applicable regulations” by not performing required safety management, environmental impact and cost-benefit analyses beforehand. Since that filing, the court has received similar petitions from airport operators in Kalispell, Mont.; Hailey, Idaho; Bloomington, Ill.; and Ormond Beach, Naples and Punta Gorda, Fla.
The first round of closures is due to take effect this Sunday, with FAA funding to end at all the targeted towers by May 5. All petitions request that the FAA delay the closures until the proper assessments are completed.
Meanwhile, 13 contract towers targeted for closure in Texas appear to have received a stay of execution. The state transportation department announced last Thursday that it plans to fund continued tower operations at these facilities for at least 90 days after FAA funding stops, using state aviation funds. The Texas legislature, which needs to approve the state DOT’s reallocation of these funds for tower operations, will bring the issue up for a vote tomorrow.