FAA Discusses Safety Issues Surrounding Tower Closures

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It appears the FAA is backtracking on an earlier directive that forbade at least some of its FAA Safety Team (FAAST) representatives from talking about pending tower closures. On Wednesday the FAAST Safety Team issued a general note of advice about operating at non-towered airports (the FAAST Team doesn't like the term "uncontrolled") and touched on all the points covered by myriad other sources on the topic since the closures became a real possibility. (Click here for a PDF of the e-mail.) Closures of 149 towers were supposed to start April 7 but on April 5 the FAA delayed that until at least June 15 citing the spate of legal challenges to the closures. Also on April 5, a regional FAAST assistant manager on the East Coast told his safety team that any discussion of tower closures was off limits. (Click here for the PDF.)

Of course, since he sent it via email, it instantly appeared on forums and media inboxes all over the country (despite the FAA's stern boilerplate directive at the bottom of the email that forbids this kind of wanton dissemination of information) and was a lively topic of often-cynical observation. The directive read, in part, that "until further notice, there are to be no stand-alone seminars on non-towered airport operations. Additionally, at all seminars, discussions/topics regarding furloughs or contract tower closures are not permitted." So far, the FAA has not responded to requests for elaboration on the rationale for the communications strategy on tower closures.

The latest FAA communication on the topic does contain a kernel of advice that we haven't seen elsewhere, and it's worth passing along. Since pilot certification requires some exposure to "towered" airports, the remaining towered airports will have increased student traffic. The FAAST team recommends "diligent planning on the part of training providers, instructors and students," not to mention those encountering the unaccustomed touch and goes by 152s at busy airports.