The Federal Aviation Administration announced today in a press release that it is going to delay the closures of 149 air traffic control towers across the country by about a month, including the one at Columbia Regional Airport.
The Airport’s tower was scheduled to be unfunded as of May 5th, now it will stay online until June 15th. The FAA says it’s allowing the extra time to try to resolve legal challenges to the closures; which come as the FAA needs to cut $637 million from its budget because of federal sequestration.
City and airport leaders were not available for comment Friday afternoon because they were meeting to discuss the development.
Meantime, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt visited the Columbia Regional Airport this afternoon, to talk about the cuts. Blunt talked to staff at the air traffic control tower about the safety issues that may follow if the tower were to close following the FAA decision. He expressed concern about whether distant air traffic control will be effective.
“Even if the air traffic can be handled from a distant location. You don’t have a sense of the ground traffic. So some of the dangers is on the ground that nobody can tell is there just by managing what’s in the air,” Blunt said.
He says he has asked for the safety study from the Missouri Tower, and he will look closely before taking further measures. Two weeks ago, Blunt co-sponsored an amendment by Senator Jerry Moran trying to keep those control towers, but the amendment was not successful.