Officials condemn air tower closure

WILLIAMSTOWN – With the announcement of the closure of three air traffic control towers at West Virginia airports, federal officials for the state are speaking out.

“By cutting air traffic control towers in communities across the country the Obama Administration is recklessly putting millions of Americans at risk to make a political point,” said U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. “Rather than finding waste and duplication to cut at the FAA, they are disproportionately targeting a program that has a direct impact on safety and hurting local economies in places like Wheeling and Parkersburg.”

Before the Federal Aviation Administration released its final decision on March 22, Democrat and Republican senators and representatives said they urged officials to rethink the cuts.

“Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., urged the agency to consider the unique situation of West Virginia’s airports and communities and the larger role they play in the national system,” said Rockefeller press secretary Andrew Breckner. “According to the FAA, under the sequester, to achieve the savings necessary, it must eliminate the contract tower program, which Parkersburg relies on for air traffic control services. Although deeply disappointed in the FAA’s decision, (Rockefeller) will continue to work with the airport and community on making sure that operations at the facility are not negatively impacted.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the latest consequences of the sequestration cuts are the closure of the air traffic control towers at airports in the Mid-Ohio Valley, Wheeling and Lewisburg.

“Senator Manchin is discouraged that automatic spending cuts… continue to undercut essential services West Virginians depend on every day,” said Katie Longo with Manchin’s office.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., stated the announcement of the closure of 149 towers is “the very reason” she voted twice to replace the sequester with more responsible budget reductions.

“With 149 air traffic control towers under consideration for closure, the program faces reductions at a far greater rate than sequestration requires and that are well over the 5 percent cut affecting other portions of the FAA’s budget,” Capito stated.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, agreed the closure of towers is not the answer to budget reductions.

“The contract tower at the local airport is a real important part of our Mid-Ohio transportation network,” Johnson said. “It services not only general aviation but also medical, commercial and military traffic.

“I’m hoping the FAA comes to their senses and they understand these control towers are there for a reason – to open up the skies safely,” he said. “It is absolutely ludicrous the federal government goes around arbitrarily closing these towers.”