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Local air traffic control tower to remain open

3/23/2013

U.S. DOT still on track to close 149 towers — 5 in Kansas.

U.S. DOT still on track to close 149 towers — 5 in Kansas.

BY SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Garden City Regional Airport received some good news on Friday with the Federal Aviation Administration's announcement that the airport's air traffic control tower had been removed from the list of tower closures disclosed last month.

"It's good news. It's definitely a relief for Garden City and surrounding communities," Rachelle Powell, airport aviation director, said. "However, it's still disappointing for the 149 air traffic control towers that are being shut down. It's still a step backwards for aviation, but we are very thankful ours is going to remain open."

Initially, the FAA proposed closing 189 contract air traffic control towers as part of its plan to meet the $637 million in cuts required under budget sequestration, but later announced it would consider keeping open any of these towers if doing so would be in the national interest.

According to the FAA, those national interest considerations included threats to national security; significant, adverse economic impact; impact on multi-state transportation, communication or banking/financial networks; and whether an airport is a critical diversionary airport to a large hub.

In addition to reviewing materials submitted on behalf of towers on the closure list, U.S. Department of Transportation consulted with the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and conducted operational assessments of each potential tower closure on the national air transportation system.

As a result, 24 federal contract towers will remain open because closing them would have a negative impact on the national interest. The FAA will begin a phased four-week closure of 149 federal contract towers starting April 7.

An additional 16 federal contract towers under the "cost share" program, which includes Garden City's tower, will remain open because Congressional statute sets aside funds every fiscal year for these towers. These funds are subject to sequestration, but the required 5 percent cut will not result in tower closures, according to an FAA statement.

Also removed from the list in Kansas was Forbes Field in Topeka. However, five other Kansas airports are still scheduled to lose their control towers, including those in Topeka, Hutchinson, Olathe and Manhattan.

Garden City's tower opened in December 2000. The city contracts with Midwest ATC for air traffic control service. Four local tower employees would have been affected had the tower closed.

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