Federal government plans to close Felts Field and 148 other air traffic control towers have been postponed until June 15, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday.
The cuts could have started this weekend, based on mandatory rollbacks imposed by Congress in 2011 when it set in motion a budget compromise. The effect on the FAA is a mandatory reduction of $637 million in the current budget.
Felts is one of 149 airports that are staffed with privately contracted controllers. The FAA’s announced four-week schedule for closing the towers at Felts and other airports would have started on Sunday.
The targeted closures are at airports mostly handling corporate and private aircraft, with minimal traffic.
Beyond June, what might happen to those 149 towers is uncertain. About 50 airport operators or cities have told the FAA they would run the towers at their own cost if needed.
Friday’s announcement said the delay would give the FAA more time to review other options. In particular, the release said the federal agency needs to review a number of legal challenges to the closures by affected cities. The FAA also needs to review other options to mitigate the impacts on the affected airports.
Larry Krauter, the CEO and director of Spokane’s airports, said the delay doesn’t change the FAA’s other plan to shut down Spokane International Airport’s control tower overnight shift.
“No change has been communicated to us about the plans to close the SIA tower overnight as of Sept. 1,” Krauter said.
The delay also spares tower reductions at the Lewiston, Moses Lake and Walla Walla airports.