Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 11:36 AM
OGDEN — Officials at the Ogden-Hinckley Airport now have a little more time to plead their case for keeping their air traffic control tower open.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that it will delay the closure of 149 federal contract air traffic control towers until June 15. The Ogden-Hinckley tower was set to close on May 5.
“This just gives us more time,” said Airport Manager Royal Eccles said. “Our senators and congressman now have some additional time to interface with the FAA to try and keep our tower open. Believe me, we’re doing everything we can to keep it open.”
Last month, the FAA announced it would eliminate funding for the towers as part of the agency’s required $637 million budget cuts under sequestration.According to FAA spokesman David Grizzle, the extension allows the agency to attempt to resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions.
Eccles said the airport is planning on joining a group of consolidated lawsuits filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. as an intervenor, which allows a party to join ongoing litigation because a judgement in a particular case may affect their rights.
“There are multiple courses of action we’re working on,” he said.
Grizzle said that as part of the tower closure process, the FAA continues to consult with airports and operators and review appropriate risk mitigations.
Eccles contends closing Ogden’s tower would present significant risk to the area, especially when considering the tower’s proximity and relationship with Hill Air Force Base and the Salt Lake International Airport.
“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”
On March 22, the FAA announced that it would stop federal funding for 149 contract towers across the country. A phased, four-week closure process was scheduled to begin Sunday.
Instead, the FAA will stop funding all 149 towers on June 15 and will close the facilities unless the airports decide to continue operations as a nonfederal contract tower.
Meanwhile, members of Congress are preparing to push legislation that could overtake the lawsuits. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., are expected next week to file a bill that prohibits closing or slashing funding to any of the towers on the closure list.
Eccles said area citizens who are concerned about Ogden’s tower should contact their legislators.
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