FAA towers to close at Trenton and 3 Pa. airports

Posted: March 24, 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration released a final list Friday of 149 air-traffic-control towers at small airports nationwide that will close beginning April 7 due to federal budget cuts.

The closures, including at Trenton-Mercer Airport and in Pennsylvania at Harrisburg, Latrobe, and Lancaster, will not shut down the airports, because pilots are trained to land and take off by communicating on a common radio frequency without ground controllers.

Frontier Airlines flies from Trenton to four Florida cities and New Orleans. Despite the cutbacks, Trenton-Mercer Airport will continue to operate and Frontier will continue to fly, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said.

"We are disappointed, but this does not impact us operating service from the Trenton airport," Frontier spokeswoman Kate O'Malley said. "In fact, the day after the tower closes, on April 8, we are expanding service to five additional destinations: Atlanta; Chicago Midway; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C."

In inclement weather, Frontier may divert flights to another airport, O'Malley said. "In good weather, we will have normal operations."

Hughes said implications of the FAA's decision "are many, ranging from the safety of our airspace to the possible detrimental impact to our economy."

He asked the FAA to reconsider, citing Trenton's location in the heavily traveled Northeast, its roster of corporate tenants that rely on air-traffic control for their operations, and the impact of a tower closure on the economy and visiting dignitaries who go to the New York area from Trenton.

The FAA decided to keep open 24 towers slated for closure because doing so "would have a negative impact on the national interest," the agency said.

The FAA said it had no choice but to reduce work hours of a majority of its 47,000 employees and close air-traffic facilities at small airports to trim $637 million due to the spending cuts known as sequestration.

Other small airport towers that will close include Ithaca, N.Y.; Stillwater, Okla.; Jackson, Tenn.; Tyler, Texas; Ogden, Utah; Tacoma, Wash.; and Oshkosh, Wis.

The FAA has proposed closing control towers at Northeast Philadelphia Airport, which has no commercial flights, and in New Castle, Del., and Essex County, N.J. The agency said it could take a year to negotiate terms with the national air-traffic controllers union.

Contact Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.

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