March 22, 2013
By David Bauerlein
The federal government took Jacksonville’s Cecil Airport and Jacksonville Executive of Craig Airport off the list of small and mid-sized airports whose control towers will close next month because of budget cuts.
But Northeast Florida Regional in St. Augustine will be among the 149 airports whose control towers will lose their staff.
The FAA will start closing the towers April 7 and continue over a four-week period.
“We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decision,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
The FAA is slashing its budget for paying contract employees at control towers, part of $600 million in cuts the agency is making for the rest of the budget year through September. The reduction is part of the $85 billion in budget cuts known as sequestration, which into effect March 1.
After review, the FAA decided to close 149 towers and keep paying for contract staffers at 40 airports.
“We’re just very pleased,” Jacksonville Aviation Authority spokesman Michael Stewart said.
Stewart said it is unclear whether Craig Airport in Arlington will get additional flights that otherwise would use Northeast Florida Regional. He said in the case of corporate aircraft, company policies and insurance coverage terms will play a role in whether planes use airports that don’t have manned control towers.
“It’s very difficult to say how this will shake out in the short term and the long term,” he said, noting the cuts from sequestration will continue over a 10-year period.
David Bauerlein: (904) 359-4581