FAA delays air traffic control tower closings


WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that it will delay the closing of contract air traffic control towers until June 15, meaning continued funding of the control tower at Fayetteville’s Drake Field for at least a few more months.

On March 22, the FAA announced that it would stop federal funding for 149 contract towers across the country. A phased, four-week closure process was scheduled to begin this Sunday. FAA now plans to stop funding all 149 towers on June 15 and will close the facilities unless the airports decide to continue operations as a non-federal contract tower.

The Fayetteville City Council recently decided to set aside as much as $250,000 from its reserves to keep the air traffic control tower at Drake Field operating beyond the proposed FAA closure.

Extending the transition deadline will give the FAA and airports more time to execute the changes to the National Airspace System, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” LaHood said in a statement. “Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”

As of Friday, Fayetteville and about 50 airport authorities and other stakeholders have indicated they may join the FAA’s non-Federal Contract Tower program and fund the tower operations themselves. The additional time will allow the FAA to help facilitate that transition.

“We will continue our outreach to the user community to answer any questions and address their concerns about these tower closures,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.