Citing safety and logistical concerns, the FAA Friday announced it will delay until June 15 closure of 149 federal contract air traffic control towers. The FAA previously decided to begin tower closures on April 7, and to carry them out over a four-week period. According to transportation secretary Ray LaHood, “We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.” Complications resulting from the announced closures include lawsuits brought against the FAA by local authorities and, separately, requests to maintain open towers with non-FAA funding. The delay brought positive responses from AOPA, the American Association of Airport Executes (AAAE) and the U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA).
Since the closures were announced, some 50 airport authorities have indicated to the FAA a desire to fund their own tower operations through the non-Federal Contract Tower program. The FAA says that delaying tower closures “will allow the FAA to help facilitate that transition.” AOPA responded to the delay saying, “We applaud the decision” for allowing the aviation community and the FAA time to “properly assess this proposed budgetary action.” AAAE and USCTA issued a joint statement saying they “appreciate” the delay and they “remain hopeful that DOT and FAA will find a way forward” and find a solution to budgetary issues that is less impactful to contract towers. Meanwhile, multiple lawsuits have been both threatened and filed by multiple airport authorities contesting the FAA’s decision to halt tower operations on their fields.