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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Felts tower to stay open

Remember how Congress moved almost like greased lightning to keep stop the slowdown in commercial flights that the sequester was going to cause?

And remember how the jaded among you said that was just because they were getting to leave on recess, and didn't want to face delays as they flew home for the break?

Well, turns out there's some dough left from the money the FAA moved around to keep air traffic controllers off furlough, and it's going to help the little airports like Felts Field. And gee, they almost never fly into the little least not outside of campaign season.

Read more inside the blog.

The air traffic control tower at Felts Field will not be closed by budget cuts, but remain open through September, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Friday.

The department has enough money from emergency legislation passed recently by Congress to keep Felts and 148 other towers at smaller airports, including Lewiston, Idaho, open, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

That legislation, known as the Reducing Flight Delays Act, was approved to avoid slowdowns at some the nation’s largest airports that were being caused by the sequester, had enough money left over to maintain staffing at Felts and other “contract towers” that were scheduled to be closed in June.

The announcement drew cheers from the congressional delegations in Washington and Idaho.

“This is great news for Spokane and the region because having Felts Field always manned will help give us the resources we need to coordinate between Spokane, Fairchild and Felts Filed to make sure that air traffic can continue to grow in the region,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Friday in a prepared statement.

Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, Idaho Republicans, said they thought the Federal Aviation Administration had enough money to keep airports fully staffed and running, but supported the legislation that made it clear the agency had the flexibility to move money around within its budget.

“It is unfortunate they initially took a different approach and caused community leaders in Idaho unnecessary headaches until Congress stepped in,” Crapo and Risch said in a press release.

Lawrence Krauter, chief executive officer of Spokane Airports, which operates Felts as well as Spokane International, said the announcement meets the immediate goal of keeping Felts open through Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. But the FAA needs to find a long-term solution for funding to keep the towers open next year.

Earlier this year, Spokane Airports filed suit in an effort to keep Felts and other contract towers. Krauter said the airport will review the details of the FAA’s decision to keep the towers open and talk with its lawyers and the other 40 airports who joined the challenge before deciding what to do about the lawsuit.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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