FAA Addresses Some Tower Closure Issues

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The FAA Wednesday announced that 72 control towers (PDF) and other facilities that had been slated to shut down night operations to meet budget cut requirements will stay open. The FAA had planned to eliminate night shifts at 69 towers, two regional approach control facilities and one tower that also provided approach control services. The sites were targeted in response to spending cuts required by sequestration. Most of the facilities saw light traffic during the proposed hours of closure, but not all. Chicago's Midway -- which handles about 250,000 flights per year -- was on the list. There are other tower closure issues still pending.

The FAA did not immediately elaborate on their decision to keep the facilities open at night and has not yet determined the fate of 149 federal contract control towers also targeted by the cuts. The FAA had planned furloughs for staff, including air traffic controllers, as part of its effort to trim $637 million from its budget through Sept. 30 as required by sequestration. However, those furloughs correlated with increased flight delays early this month, prompting Congress to allow the FAA to transfer $253 million between accounts to keep air traffic control facilities fully staffed. The FAA has not yet announced whether it will use part of the $253 million now available to keep 149 smaller federal contract control towers open beyond June 15, or what other accounts may suffer.