Airport Tower Closures Here, Around U.S. Delayed

WASHINGTON (April 5, 2013)--The closure of 149 airport control towers including the facility at Texas State Technical College airport will be delayed until mid-June in order to deal with legal challenges, the Obama administration said Friday.

The first closures were scheduled to begin Sunday, but the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday the closures will be delayed until June 15 after trade groups representing companies that operate the towers under contract for FAA filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court in Washington.

The agency says about 50 airport operators and communities have also indicated they may want to pay for operation of the towers themselves, and more time is needed to work out those details.

The announcement came a day after the Texas Transportation Commission voted Thursday to step in to fund air traffic control operations at TSTC Airport and more than a dozen other airports in the state where towers were targeted for closure because of automatic federal budget cuts.

The vote means the Texas Department of Transportation will provide a total of about $2 million to the towers for 90 days.

“Safety is our top priority and I am glad we’re able to keep these critical air traffic control services operating,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner Fred Underwood.

“As a pilot, I know firsthand how critical these services are to the safety of air traffic.”

Other airports that will receive state funds include New Braunfels, Brownsville, Easterwood Field in College Station, Lone Star Executive Houston, Georgetown Muni, San Marcos Muni, Dallas Executive, Sugar Land Regional, Stinson Muni in San Antonio, Collin County Regional, Tyler Pounds Regional, Texarkana, and Victoria Regional.

They were on a list the FAA released almost two weeks ago of contract and cost-share towers to be closed nearly two weeks ago.

The fate of federal air traffic control towers such as the one at Waco Regional is still being decided, an FAA spokeswoman said.

Both TSTC and Waco Regional were included on a list released last month of smaller airports around the country where air traffic control centers could be closed entirely as the Federal Aviation Administration deals with a $600 million reduction in its budget for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

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