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FAA to delay closing Albany airport tower

Southwest Georgia Regional Airport tower (April 5, 2013).

Southwest Georgia Regional Airport tower (April 5, 2013).

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Friday that it will delay the planned closure of 149 air traffic control towers until June 15 while it resolves multiple legal challenges.

The closures, which were set to begin as early as Sunday, were one of the most visible signs of the across-the-board federal budget cuts that kicked in March 1.

Several airports that faced the loss of their federally funded air traffic controllers questioned whether the FAA had followed its own safety procedures.

The tower at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport is among those slated for closure.

Deputy Airport Director Kenneth Johnson said the delay shouldn't impact any of the airport's day-to-day operations.

City Manager James Taylor said the decision gave the city a little more time to find out what impact the tower closure could have on the airport and the city.

"This gives us a 40-day or so or window, but we still have to do what we have to do," Taylor said. "We do appreciate the additional time, but that's all it gives us. They're going the same direction, they're just going to take a little longer to get there."

Taylor says that the city is researching options to present to the City Commission. Those options include allowing the tower to go unmanned or, alternatively, having the city take on the job of manning the tower. Local control of the tower could cost the city $500,000 a year.

"We're going to look at what we get for the money we spend and what benefit to the citizens will be," Taylor said. "Even if it operates fine (without a tower) and the flyers won't use it, it doesn't benefit us. And we're not going to do anything that jeopardizes the airport. It's too crucial a tool for economic development."

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, was among 47 members of Congress who sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta protesting the closure of the towers and asked for consideration of possible aletrnatives that would maintain some level of service in the targeted towers.

“The closure of these air traffic control towers is another example of the disastrous effects of sequestration,” Bishop said. “If the process is allowed to continue, it will have a severe impact on services to the Albany and Macon airports and potentially create a safety risk. I will continue to fight to keep these towers open and urge Congress to replace the sequester with a more sensible solution.”

Bishop's office said that the letter to the FAA listed possible alternatives to the complete closure of all contract air towers, including other ways of reducing spending that would spread the burden across all programs or requesting a reprogramming of funds from congressional appropriators. The letter also was sent to President Barack Obama and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Comments

bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 3 months ago

Does Albany really a airport???? Nobody wants to fly here.....

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Cartman 1 year, 3 months ago

One of today's squawkers thinks the entire airport will be shut down. It's just the Tower - not the entire airport. It's like closing the toll booth but leaving the highway open. You can still use it. You probably won't even notice its gone.

I say bring the spending cuts! The sooner the better.

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Amazed2 1 year, 3 months ago

Kind of crazy the City was able to raise about $10,000 million to build the new terminal but can't raise $400,000 a year to man the tower. The $10 million spent for the new building was a waste. People only fly in and out of Albany when the have no other choice.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 3 months ago

The Albany cargo hub is one of the largest in the state. No one in their right mind wants to risk losing it over $500,000 a year. We'd just spend the money on low-cost church housing anyway :)

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B4it 1 year, 3 months ago

Terry, has anyone taken the initiative to look at the number of flights in and out of Albany, and then look at the timeframes the cargo planes take off and land?

Unless it has changed, the tower did not open until 8 a.m. and closed around 6 p.m. The first ASA filght (at 6 a.m.) and last ASA flight (arriving in the 8:30 p.m. timeframe) were not even using this tower. I am not sure about the UPS flight departure and arrival times, but these need to be considered.

Also, once this flight data is known, some official should talk with the FAA management for the Jacksonville Air Traffic Control to get their input on handling the Albany traffic. If this is not part of the discussions, then in my opinion, all of this talk about not getting deliveries in Albany by the mayor because a tower is not available is a bunch of lies to try to scare the tax payers.

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SMHgain 1 year, 3 months ago

B4it, I live near the airport. I don't know the exact times for UPS departures and arrivals but I can tell you for sure that it is not between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. It seems to be around 11 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. that I notice the noise from the planes taking off and landing.

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B4it 1 year, 3 months ago

SMH.. Thanks for the info. This is what I suspected but I did not know the exact times. So my thoughts are why is there so much over blown hysteria over this issue of closing a tower that is already not used by the most frequently scheduled flights in and out of Albany (ASA and UPS)?

Until I see any contradicting FACTS, I think this is just another power play by the Aviation Board and the City officials to try to keep the tower open.

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WeAreThey 1 year, 3 months ago

It's about GROUND traffic control. Thrush, UPS, FedEx, Delta, and private pilots all independently deciding when they take off and land. They don't make the decision now - the tower does. I don't want to be on the plane taking off while another decides to land in the same place. Do you? It's about safety and the perception of safety - the public's and the insurance companies'.

I appreciate the Aviation and City Commission moving quickly to assume this responsibility BEFORE there is ever a question or concern. THAT is good governing.

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B4it 1 year, 3 months ago

WeAre... my point is where are the FACTS to back up what is being emotionally presented as reasons to keep a tower. They may be there, but the data is not being told to the public and our officials. Examples: number of flights in and out of the airport, and what is the JAX Air Traffic Controlers position on handling the flights safely. These facts are not being told. Why?

There are many airports that do not have towers and the "trained pilots" are able to maneuver safely What makes the Albany Airport any different?

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DoctorDorite 1 year, 3 months ago

Air Traffic controllers have to speak clear/crisp english over the radios unlike the fire/police dispatchers and with the cities hiring practices the new hires that will be chosen will only cause confusion in the sky among pilots unable to understand the garbled lingo. Tin-fo

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FryarTuk 1 year, 3 months ago

Delaying the closure is a mixed message. If the towers can be safely closed in several months, why can't they be closed now in order to begin saving money now? If the towers' closures create significant risks of life and property why are they being closed at all? This is more of the cobbled governing process the administration and congress are putting the country through unnecessarily. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 3 months ago

Freaking Wusses. Nobody wants to make the hard decision. Greece: get out of the way, we need the space on the Platform of Idiots.

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