FAA shuts down 149 air traffic towers

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced plans to
close 149 air traffic control towers to make its sequestration budget cuts.

Prior to the implementation of the sequester, the FAA warned
that the $85 billion cut to 2013 federal spending levels could result in the closing
of 189 flight towers across the U.S., as well as furloughs for air traffic

The agency on Friday said it had finalized the list of
closures, down to 149, that will be necessary to meet its requirement to cut
$600 million from its budget to contribute to the sequester spending reduction. 

{mosads}“We heard from communities across the country about the
importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions,” Transportation
Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement announcing the air traffic control

“Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult
choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration,”
LaHood continued.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the skies would remain safe after the 149 air traffic towers are closed.

“We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure
the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered
airports,” Huerta said.

The FAA said the air traffic control towers would begin to close on
April 7.

Republicans in Congress have accused FAA of choosing to
make cuts that would have a negative impact on airline passengers
to score political points.

The top Republicans on the House and Senate’s transportation committees calling the flight tower closures a “choice” the Obama administration was making.

“We are deeply disappointed by the administration’s choice today to push ahead with its proposed contract tower closings and are concerned about potential impacts on aviation safety,” Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) wrote in a letter to LaHood.

“On February 24, 2013, in an interview on Meet the Press, you promised the American people ‘One thing we never compromise on is safety’….Yet there are significant concerns regarding potential impacts to safety should you move forward with these closures, particularly at airports in busy areas of the aviation system with mixed-used operations and complex airport and airspace procedures.”

The FAA has countered the Republican argument by stating that the sequester requires it to make equal cuts across its budget. Federal agencies are required to cut about 9 percent of their total 2013 spending under the law.

The FAA said Friday that the decisions on which towers to
close were based on “national interests” such as threats to national security,
economic impact on multiple state and impact on interstate travel and commerce.

The full list of flight towers that are slated for closure can be read here.

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