Last month, the FAA announced it would eliminate funding for these towers as part of the agency’s required $637 million budget cuts under sequestration.
“This delay, which I had urged in phone calls with the FAA, is a modest but important step in the right direction. The continued operation of the Trenton-Mercer air traffic tower will ensure that the airport can provide reliable, expanded service,” U.S. Rep. rush Holt said in a written statement. “Now Congress and the FAA must work together to ensure that air traffic towers in Trenton and other cities remain in operation in the long term. Lawmakers must reject the bizarre Republican notion that cutting air traffic control towers is a way to grow the economy. This country has to grow. You don’t cut your way to prosperity.”
The additional time will allow the agency to attempt to resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions. As part of the tower closure implementation process, the agency continues to consult with airports and operators and review appropriate risk mitigations. Extending the transition deadline will give the FAA and airports more time to execute the changes to the National Airspace System.
“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a press release announcing the delay. “Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”
As of today, approximately 50 airport authorities and other stakeholders have indicated they may join the FAA’s non-Federal Contract Tower program and fund the tower operations themselves. This additional time will allow the FAA to help facilitate that transition.
“We will continue our outreach to the user community to answer any questions and address their concerns about these tower closures,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
On March 22, the FAA announced that it would stop federal funding for 149 contract towers across the country. A phased, four-week closure process was scheduled to begin this Sunday, April 7. That phased closure process will no longer occur. Instead, the FAA will stop funding all 149 towers on June 15 and will close the facilities unless the airports decide to continue operations as a nonfederal contract tower.
Frontier Airlines representatives had said the airline would continue to its regular flight schedule after the staffing of the tower ended. Unrelated to the sequester, the airline still intends to suspend flights for two months starting in September while construction crews install a safety enhancement project on the airport’s main runway.