FAA to close Southwest Georgia Regional Airport tower

A traveler walks into the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport terminal in this undated file photo.

A traveler walks into the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport terminal in this undated file photo.

ALBANY, Ga. — The Federal Aviation Administration has upheld its decision to close the tower at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, despite an appeal filed to keep it open.

The FAA announced Friday that it will close 149 federal contract towers beginning April 7 as part of the agency’s sequestration implementation plan. The agency will keep 24 federal contract towers that had been previously proposed for closure open because doing so would have a negative impact on the national interest.

“The first thing I’d like to say is that commercial flights in and out of our airport will continue,” Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Director Yvette Aehle said. “The only thing that will change is how pilots will be receiving their clearances. We’ve never been without a tower before, so we’re not really sure what to expect other than we will likely experience some delays.”


Joe Bellacomo

Yvette Aehle is the director of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.

The local tower is one of five in the state set for closure. The other four are in Athens, Lawrenceville, Macon and Cobb County. Flights in and out of Albany will be handled by air traffic controllers in Jacksonville, Fla.

“We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers, and these were very tough decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Unfortunately, we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration.”

“We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

The timing of the local tower closing is ironic since a new $10 million terminal is set to open in June.

“Needless to say, when we began work on the new terminal losing our tower was not on the list of things we expected to see happen,” Aehle said. “We hope people will continue to fly out of Albany because we certainly don’t want to lose our airport.”

Aehle said if the airport begins to experience severe delays, then the city might have to look at peak traffic patterns and go to the commercial market and hire personnel to staff the tower.

The director said five people who currently man the tower will lose their jobs.

“It’s a blow nationwide to those other airports, also,” she said. “These are very specialized positions. My biggest concern is how we will transition through this process, because right now we don’t know how the closure will affect our traffic.”

Earlier this month, the FAA proposed closure of 189 contract air traffic control towers as part of its plan to meet the $637 million in cuts required under budget sequestration and announced that it would consider keeping open any of these towers if doing so would be in the national interest.

The national interest considerations included significant threats to national security as determined by the FAA in consultation with the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security; significant, adverse economic impact that is beyond the impact on a local community; significant impact on multistate transportation, communication or banking/financial networks; and the extent to which an airport currently served by a contract tower is a critical diversionary airport to a large hub.


VietVet1 2 years, 6 months ago

What!!! The city leaders aren't heading to Washington to save the tower?


waltspecht 2 years, 6 months ago

Sanford at work. What is the status of the Columbus Tower? He might need to make a Pee Call.


D_Zaster 2 years, 6 months ago

We can give the Muslim Brotherhood millions in aid in Egypt, run up 500,000/night hotel bills in France for the VP, and offer money to help Jordan with refugees; but when it comes to domestic issues, this administration chooses to hurt the American public because he cannot get higher taxes for further wasteful spending!


btinf16 2 years, 6 months ago

Without the aid less fortunate countries get from us, the world and the U.S. would be in a far worse position than we currently are. Every administration since the end of WWII has backed the giving of aid as a means to stabilizing the world, which has been more successful than not. This administration is no different than the ones before when it comes to this. I do agree that the loss of the ABY tower is not positive, but it has nothing to do with aid to other nations.


waltspecht 2 years, 6 months ago

Used to be called tribute, and I believe we did say something about it at Tripoli. No, you can't buy friends, the way these countries treat the USA is living proof of that.


GeeGee 2 years, 6 months ago

What will happen to the employees? Will they transfer elsewhere or just be out of a job? If they transfer, then what is the use of closing the tower. They have a Air Force Reserve base in Homestead, Fl and are they keeping it open? This costs us big bucks to play war. Close that and many of these small airports can stay open by the closure of one airport that is not needed.


Bubbavet_rureel 2 years, 6 months ago

Tea Party at work - Everyone to the Right!

To the last person leaving, please turn the lights out.


oldster 2 years, 6 months ago

Safety will be a concern even though the traffic is very light when compared to a larger airport. While the approach control and RAPCON in Jacksonville can watch them and get them close to the airport, in cases of inclement weather there will be no PAR (precision approach radar) and they will have to rely on the local VOR, VASI lights and good eye sight to land and take off safely as the passenger planes are being inter mixed with smaller private planes that may just be flying VFR. Perhaps the biggest danger will be commercial planes that travel at higher speeds mixing with small slower private planes without ATC will be a problem. But with our finances being what they are cuts must be made, sorry to say.


RedEric 2 years, 6 months ago

But we keep funding studies on fat lesbians etc.


Wryone 2 years, 6 months ago

I'm wondering how the United States is in a better "position" or would be in a "worse position" if we had not been giving away taxpayers' money from the Treasury to buy friends. How have we benefited from our "investment" in other countries? I think after 65 years of giving away money, we can still count our real friends on one hand. Look at the way countries in the United Nations votes...virtually anti-American every chance they get. And nearly all the countries that oppose the U.S. in the United Nations have gladly taken our money and voted against our interests. You can not buy friends and that attitude breeds contempt.


DoctorDorite 2 years, 6 months ago

The airport in Dawson has more take-off and landings than Albany per 24 hrs., they need one worse than Albany.


erock 2 years, 6 months ago

Sherman's march through Georgia is beginning to look like a leisurely stroll through the park.


FryarTuk 2 years, 6 months ago

When you cut expenses it means you cut services. I hope they cut some multinational corporate dole, eliminate Medicare part D, restrict unemployment to 26 weeks, require food stamp and welfare recipients to send their kids to school, eliminate corn and ethanol dole, kick the UN out of NYC, bring home all of our troops and discontinue 50% of foreign aid. They can also have the tower at ABY as long as they make the damned parking attendants give receipts for parking payments. If I haven't pissed somebody off I am going to count my Saturday night as a failure. I am going to read my Sunday School lesson and see if there are any dust-ups.


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