OGDEN -- The Federal Aviation Administration has postponed its decision on whether to close the control tower at the Ogden-Hinckley Airport until Friday, leaving airport officials in limbo for another three days.
A little more than a week ago, the FAA notified the airport that because of the government's automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, plans were under way to reduce expenditures by approximately $600 million for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year.
Part of that reduction strategy includes closing 189 control towers at airports that had fewer than 150,000 total flights and 10,000 commercial flights in fiscal year 2012, a category Ogden-Hinckley falls into.
The FAA had asked the airports on the closure list to submit information about how the closure of a particular tower would "adversely affect the national interest."
Although the FAA has maintained that the majority of the 189 airport towers will close, information sent by the airports could possibly be used to remove some of the towers from the list.
The FAA was expected to announce its final list of closures Tuesday, but because of an outpouring of response from targeted airports, the decision has been delayed until Friday.
"The FAA has received a very large number of responses," said David Grizzle, head of FAA's Air Traffic Organization in a statement sent to the Standard-Examiner. "In order to review comprehensively the submission on behalf of each airport, the FAA will delay the date of its final decision and announcement of which airport tower operations it intends to cease to fund."
Ogden-Hinckley Airport Manager Royal Eccles said he and other city officials anxiously await the Friday decision, but have no information about the fate of the airport's control tower.
"Right now, we don't know what's going to happen," he said. "All we can do now is play the waiting game. Things seem to be changing hourly."
Eccles sent a detailed, nearly 2,000-word response to the FAA, answering the question of why an Ogden tower closure would adversely affect the national interest.
In the letter, Eccles cited safety issues related to the airport's proximity to Hill Air Force Base and the Salt Lake International Airport, the airport's positive impact on the regional economy, its impact on multi-state transportation and several other safety and security issues as reasons to keep the tower open.
"I have to think that, based on what we have at stake, we have a fighting chance (for the tower to stay open)," Eccles said. The airport also got some help from Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who sent a formal letter to the FAA on March 12.
In his letter, Bishop cited the same safety issues that Eccles did in his letter. Bishop also said that closing Ogden's tower would hamper traffic flow and landing patterns of any aircraft that flies into Hill, including future F-35 jets.
Bishop said the closure would shift certain financial and operational burdens covered currently by the airport to the Department of Defense.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, is pressing for a Senate floor vote on an amendment that would withdraw $50 million in unobligated FAA research and capital funds from prior appropriation bills to keep the airport towers open. The $50 million is the same amount the government says it would save if it closes the 189 towers.
Eccles said Utah residents interested in keeping Ogden's airport open should contact their state's senators and ask them to support the amendment.