FAA delays closure of air traffic control towers

The delay will allow the FAA to resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions.

A Mesaba Airlines jet sits on the tarmac at the Columbia Regional Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration announced in a news release on Friday that it would delay the closure of Columbia Regional Airport's control towers. Maneater File Photo

The Federal Aviation Administration announced in a Friday news release that it would delay the closures of all 149 federal contract air traffic control towers until June 15.

Originally, the FAA was going to start tower closures April 7 and Columbia Regional Airport's control tower was scheduled to close May 5.

The delay will allow the FAA to resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions.

Multiple stakeholders, including City Manager Mike Matthes, Mayor Bob McDavid, Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick and Boone County Commissioner Karen Miller, met with FAA officials in Kansas City on Sunday to discuss the air tower closure as well as airport terminal improvements.

Airport Manager Don Elliott has been contacting Midwest Air Traffic Control and the Missouri Department of Transportation to gather costs of keeping the tower functioning and find possible alternative funding methods for the tower, Columbia Public Works spokesman Steven Sapp said.

Public Works will submit a report to City Council by April 15 regarding air tower costs and possible funding solutions.

"There is potential that there could be some funding locally," Sapp said. "Everything is very preliminary so there isn't much concrete information yet."

If the tower ceases operations, flights arriving and departing from Columbia Regional Airport will receive traffic control from Mizzou Approach in Springfield. If for some reason Mizzou Approach cannot provide services, air traffic control in Kansas City will take over Columbia flights, Sapp said.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. toured Columbia Regional Airport on Friday to speak with local officials and show support for finding a solution to the air tower closure.

Blunt co-sponsored an amendment with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., that intends to stop the FAA from closing control towers.

The funding cuts are part of the FAA's sequestration implementation plan to counter budget sequestration in Washington, D.C. The FAA planned to reduce expenditures by roughly $600 million for the rest of the fiscal year.

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