FAA Announces Closure of 149 Air Traffic Control Towers

“Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration," Ray LaHood said in a statement. “Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration," Ray LaHood said in a statement. Charles Dharapak/AP

The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday translated the sequestration order into action with an announcement that 149 federal contract air traffic control towers will close beginning April 7.

An additional 24 towers slated for closure were given a reprieve for fear that their absence would go against the national interest. A separate set of 16 towers under the government’s “cost share” program, which were targeted for a 5 percent cut under the sequestration law, will remain open because of separate annual funding set-asides.

“We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports.”

The closures will unfold over four weeks, and localities are being given the option of converting the towers to a nonfederal arrangement using local funding.

Under sequestration, the FAA had been assigned cuts totaling $637 million. In March officials proposed 189 air traffic control towers under federal contract for closure. The exceptions for national security were determined by the following criteria:

  • Significant threats to national security as determined by the FAA in consultation with the Defense or Homeland Security departments;
  • Significant, adverse economic impact that is beyond the impact on a local community;
  • Significant impact on multistate transportation, communication or banking/financial networks; and
  • The extent to which an airport currently served by a contract tower is a critical diversionary airport to a large hub.

The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, in a statement released Wednesday after Senate passage of the omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2013 that continued sequestration, warned that “air safety will be seriously jeopardized.” It called the closing of towers an act that is “insane, unjustified, absurd and needs to be stopped.” The federal contract towers program, it added, “has been around for almost 30 years and has been lauded by the DoT’s inspector general as highly efficient, cost effective and safe.”

The association also warned that "the rippling effect will cause confusion, serious delays and loss of revenues to local airports and the business community as a whole.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.