Airport control tower to stay open

May 10, 2013 at 12:10 a.m.

The Federal Aviation Administration will keep open the control tower at the Victoria Regional Airport for now, along with 148 others at small airports across the country.

The towers had been slated to close as the result of automatic government spending cuts imposed by Congress.

The towers, which are operated by contractors for the FAA at low-traffic airports, were scheduled to close June 15. They will remain open to Sept. 30, the end of the federal budget year, the Transportation Department said Friday.

Airport manager Jason Milewski said the positive ending has "been a long, difficult battle."

"I'm glad the FAA is following up on its responsibility to maintain air traffic control across the country," Milewski said. "It's good news, not only for Victoria but all the airports and communities that were going to be affected."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has determined there is enough extra money available through a bill hastily passed by Congress last month to keep the towers open. The bill gave the FAA authority to shift up to $253 million from accounts with unspent funds to prevent further furloughs of air traffic controllers.

The furloughs at all airport towers and air traffic control facilities caused widespread flight delays across the country for almost a week before Congress stepped in.

Milewski is hopeful the FAA "will continue to live up to its responsibility and provide funding for the next fiscal year and beyond."

FAA officials had previously said they needed $220 million to eliminate the need for furloughs. Congress didn't require the FAA to spend the remaining funds on keeping towers at small airports open, but lawmakers said they anticipated that the agency would use the money.

The FAA will also put $10 million toward reducing cuts and delays in its program to switch from a radar-based air traffic control system to one based on satellite navigation, the statement said.

Another $11 million will go to "partially restore the support of infrastructure in the national airspace system," the statement said.



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