BOSTON (CBS/AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration reported Friday it will delay the closure of the 149 control tower operations until at least June, including several in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Under orders to trim hundreds of millions of dollars from its budget, the FAA released a list on March 22 of air traffic control facilities slated for closure at small airports across the country. The closures were set to happen early this month.
Airports in Beverly, New Bedford, Lawrence, Worcester, Norwood and Nashua, N.H., were all targeted to have air traffic control eliminated.
The control tower closures were not expected to force the shutdown of any of those airports, but pilots would have been left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency with no help from ground controllers under procedures that all pilots are trained to carry out.
The planned closures raised several concerns at the affected airports and throughout in the aviation industry. Those worries included the impact on safety and the potential financial effect on communities that rely on airports as key economic engines for attracting businesses and tourists.
The FAA is under pressure to cut spending $637 million for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. The spending reduction is part of the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, which went into effect March 1.
All of the airports targeted for tower shutdowns have fewer than 150,000 total flight operations per year. Of those, fewer than 10,000 are commercial flights by passenger airlines.
Airport directors, pilots and others in the aviation industry have argued that stripping away an extra layer of safety during the most critical stages of flight would elevate risks and stunt years of progress in making the U.S. aviation network the safest in the world.
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