FAA restores funding for airport towers
WILLIAMSTOWN – The Federal Aviation Administration Friday announced funding will be provided through September for the 149 air traffic control towers scheduled to close in June.
Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport manager Terry Moore said he will no longer be requesting money from local municipalities to privately fund the tower from the previously scheduled June 15 closure to the end of September.
“It’s very good news,” Moore said. “The airport was getting pretty good local support for the funding, but this takes a lot of pressure off.”
Moore had spoken to the Parkersburg City Council Finance Committee as a precursor to a request for funds from the city council and set up a luncheon for Tuesday with mayors from six of the smaller cities to discuss monetary donations.
“Now we just hope the towers are included in next year’s budget,” he said.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said he is glad the U.S. Department of Transportation used the resources provided by Congress to keep the towers open.
“This decision means that airports in many communities – including four in West Virginia – will continue to have access to critical air traffic control services. While this is good news for the traveling public, it is only a temporary fix,” Rockefeller said. “We will face the same dire consequences in October if House Republicans do not work with the Senate and the President to forge a balanced compromise to replace the sequester.”
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va, who sponsored the Air Traffic Control Tower Funding Restoration Act to restore and provide funding to the towers scheduled to close, said the continued funding is “great news.”
“When it was announced the closure of these air traffic control towers would take place in June, it was nothing more than political maneuvering and posturing,” McKinley said. “This decision by the FAA proves political decisions can have a devastating effect on communities like Wheeling and Parkersburg by putting Americans at risk to make a political point.”
Moore said the continued funding of the towers has reinstated his faith in the state’s congressional leaders.
“The senators and representatives have done a great deal to help us keep our tower,” Moore said. “This raised my esteem for them, at least our guys seem to be looking out for us.”
These towers were listed for closure because of the FAA’s required $637 million budget cuts under sequestration, unless airports continued operations as a nonfederal contract tower.
With Friday’s determination by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that there is enough extra money to keep the towers open with last month’s congressional bill, the airports do not have to worry until the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
“Now we just have to hope that funding for the towers is included in the budget for next year,” Moore said. “This way we don’t have to take any financial risk locally; it either happens or it doesn’t.”