WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and 82 other members of Congress are asking Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to make an official announcement that would keep air traffic control towers open at small airports across the nation.
The group, which is made up of both Republicans and Democrats, sent LaHood a letter Thursday, asking him to utilize a provision in the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 that would prevent the closure of 149 Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control towers, which includes the tower at the Ogden-Hinckley Airport.
The legislation was recently signed by President Obama and LaHood has told some lawmakers that the towers will likely remain open, but no official announcement has been made.
The letter says the legislation gives the DOT and the FAA flexibility to use available funds in the Airport Improvement Program account to keep the towers open and halt furloughs for air traffic control workers.
"I'm encouraged by Secretary LaHood's apparent statements about keeping the towers open," Bishop said. "But I'll be more comfortable with a more official guarantee that the towers will in fact remain open."
Bishop said he's tried to keep Ogden's tower open since early March, when the FAA announced it could possibly be closed as part of an effort to save money due to sequestration.
On March 12, Bishop contacted the FAA to inform them of the Ogden tower's strategic importance to air traffic around Hill Air Force Base.
On April 22, Bishop issued a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel requesting further information about whether or not the Department of Defense had consulted with the FAA about the Ogden tower's role in air defense training at Hill.
"To close (Ogden's) tower would be a mistake," Bishop said. "And it could be detrimental to air traffic around one of our nation's preeminent air defense facilities."
Ogden-Hinckley Airport Manager Royal Eccles said he's also heard that his tower will likely remain open, but he hasn't received confirmation from the FAA and he, like Bishop, also wants a guarantee.
"We're still waiting for official word from the FAA," Eccles said. "It would be great if all the speculation is true, but we need something more solid."