FAA delays control tower closures at 4 Arizona airports - WNEM TV 5

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FAA delays control tower closures at 4 Arizona airports

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PHOENIX (CBS5/AP) -

The Federal Aviation Administration says it is delaying the closure of 149 air traffic control towers across the country, including four in Arizona.

U.S. Rep. Ron Barber announced on Friday that the FAA will keep Ryan Airfield in Tucson and 148 contract air traffic control towers at airports across the nation, open through Sept. 30, when the federal government marks the end of their fiscal year.

The air traffic control towers were originally going to start closing April 7. The airports impacted in Arizona are Ryan Field, Glendale Municipal Airport, Phoenix Goodyear Airport, and Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport in Bullhead City.

The agency announced its decision earlier this year after the FAA released a preliminary list of 238 facilities nationwide with low traffic volumes and control towers operated by contractors that faced closures due to federal budget cuts.

The FAA says the airports will remain open. However, pilots would have to coordinate takeoffs and landings themselves via radio and visual contact, as they do now at night when the tower isn't open.

The Sky Harbor International Airport released the following statement on the tower at Phoenix Goodyear Airport.

"The Federal Aviation Administration has notified the City of Phoenix Aviation Department that it will no longer fund the contract tower at Phoenix Goodyear Airport. The FAA will begin a four-week phased closure of 149 federal contract towers beginning on April 7. The City is looking into options for continuing tower operations in the absence of the FAA. While the airport will continue to operate with a pilot-to-pilot communications system, the City of Phoenix is still evaluating the impact this will have on Phoenix Goodyear Airport.

"One of Phoenix Goodyear Airport's most significant business partners, Airline Training Center Arizona (ATCA) trains pilots for Lufthansa Airlines at Phoenix Goodyear Airport and has a contract with the German Air Force. ATCA accounts for approximately 85 percent of the take-offs and landings at the airport. ATCA has stated that if the tower closes they will have to move their operation, possibly to an airport outside of the United States."

The city of Glendale released this statement on the FAA's decision to close control towers.

"At this time, our plan is to keep Glendale Municipal Airport open and operational during the FAA sequestration period. The city is determining the impact and exploring various options in an effort to best manage the airport during this situation. The decision will be a coordinated effort and discussed with Luke, airport users, and the FAA. The focus will continue to be on public safety.

"In the meantime, pilots may operate their aircraft using the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF), which is standard protocol utilized after hours at the Airport. This procedure enables pilots to communicate with each other upon take-offs, landings, and in the traffic pattern. The Airport Manager will continue monitoring the situation and obtain feedback from pilots, Luke officials, and FAA ATC staff while these procedures are in use."

Ryan Airfield in Tucson released this statement on the planned tower closure.

"On March 5, the FAA announced that the air traffic control tower at Ryan Airfield was one of 189 towers throughout the U.S. (one of four in Arizona) that would close April 7 as a result of the federal government's budget sequestration. The Tucson Airport Authority petitioned the FAA to keep Ryan's tower open, with help from southern Arizona's congressional delegation and local elected officials. On March 22, the FAA released a final control tower closure list and Ryan Airfield is one of 149 airports where towers will be closed through a four-week phased process beginning April 7. All four Arizona airports appear on the list for closure.

"The Tucson Airport Authority is grateful to our area's elected representatives for their assistance and support in making our case for keeping Ryan's tower open. We are disappointed in this decision given the significant safety and economic benefits the tower contributes to our community and southern Arizona.

"Ryan Airfield will remain open despite the closure of the control tower. Pilots will use UNICOM, a communications frequency used at uncontrolled (non-towered) airports for weather and navigational information. The airport's Instrument Landing System (ILS), Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), and Runway End Identifier Lights (REIL) will remain available and continue to be maintained."

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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