...Amid Strange Spending Priorities

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One of the curiosities of FAA budget priorities may be expressed in the veritable building boom of control towers across the country. Multimillion-dollar towers, many of them 200 feet tall or more, are being built all over the country. In a lot of cases the towers are being built long before they are needed, according to the airport officials being quoted. And while there seems to be money (and apparently a perceived need) to build state-of-the-art new towers, the equipment being installed in some of them was created when bell bottoms were popular (... the first time). The new $12 million tower in Fort Wayne, Ind., will actually get used "refurbished" hardware supporting the Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS) that first went into service in 1974. Fort Wayne had been among 172 airports slated for the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) that went into service last year. However, the cost of the system went wildly out of control. The original estimate for equipping the 172 towers with STARS was $970 million. The FAA cut the deployment by 70 percent to just 47 of the country's busiest towers but the cost will still rise to $1.6 billion. "We're putting the money where the need is greatest," FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Ishman-Cory told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.