LATROBE (AP/KDKA) – Air traffic control facilities at three Pennsylvania airports will close down as a result of budget cuts, the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday.
Capital City Airport in Harrisburg, Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe and Lancaster Airport in Lancaster were included on the FAA’s final list of 149 air traffic control facilities that will close nationwide starting early next month.
“We are extremely disappointed with the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to close the contract air traffic control tower … due to sequestration,” said Timothy Edwards, executive director of the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority, owner and operator of Capital City.
The airport will remain open, he said, and instrument arrivals and departures will continue to be controlled by the nearby Harrisburg International Airport tower.
Capital City Airport is the home airport for the Pennsylvania State Police. A state police spokesman said officials had just learned of the FAA announcement late Friday afternoon and it was not immediately clear how their operations might be affected.
The air traffic control facilities targeted by the FAA for closure were chosen because they are at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year. The closures will not force those airports to shut down, but pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency.
The FAA is being forced to trim $637 million for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 as part of across-the-board spending cuts that went into effect March 1. The agency said it had no choice but to subject most of its 47,000 employees, including tower controllers, to periodic furloughs.
Controllers keep planes safely separated and sequenced for landings. Tower controllers also play a big role in keeping aircraft from taxiing across active runways, something that has been a key FAA focus for years.
Planes landing at Arnold Palmer Airport will have traffic control guidance from the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport and the Cleveland airport, officials have said.
Miramar, Fla.-based Spirit Airlines, which runs several flights daily from Latrobe, said it would operate a normal schedule and noted that it is already authorized by the FAA to operate when the control tower is closed.
“As always, the safety of our customers and crews is our top priority,” Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said.
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