Three small South Carolina airports will see their flight control towers closed beginning April 7 because of federal budget cuts, the FAA said today.
They are the Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, Donaldson Center in Greenville and the airport on Hilton Head Island. The towers slated to close are at smaller airports with lighter traffic.
They are among 149 flight control towers across the nation slated for closure because of federal budget cuts, according to the FAA.
Other airports could see a loss of overnight shifts at flight control towers to save money, including Charleston International.
Charleston Air Force Base with the Department of Defense are pressing the FAA to keep the flight control tower open around the clock at Charleston International, according to airport Deputy Director Bill New.
Affected airports should be notified by mid-April, New said.
The FAA decided to keep 24 towers open that had been previously proposed for closure because doing so would have a negative impact on the national interest.
An additional 16 federal contract towers under the “cost share” program will remain open because congressional statute sets aside funds every fiscal year for these towers. These cost-share program funds are subject to sequestration but the required 5 percent cut will not result in tower closures.
“We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Unfortunately, we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts.”
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta added, “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.”
In early March, FAA proposed to close 189 contract air traffic control towers as part of its plan to meet the $637 million in cuts required under budget sequestration and announced that it would consider keeping open any of these towers if doing so would be in the national interest.
The national interest considerations included: significant threats to national security as determined by the FAA in consultation with the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security; significant, adverse economic impact that is beyond the impact on a local community; significant impact on multi-state 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.
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