Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Control-tower closings delayed

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WASHINGTON -- The closings of control towers at 149 small airports, due to begin this weekend because of government-wide spending cuts, are being delayed until mid-June, federal regulators announced Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it needs more time to deal with legal challenges to the closures.

Also, about 50 airport authorities and other "stakeholders" have indicated they want to fund the operations of the towers themselves rather than see them shut down, and more time will be needed to work out those plans, the agency said in a statement.

The first 24 tower closures were scheduled to begin Sunday, with the rest coming over the next few weeks. Obama administration officials have said the closures are necessary to accomplish automatic spending cuts required by Congress.

Despite the delay, the FAA said it will stop funding all 149 of the airport towers, which are operated by private contractors, on June 15. Under the new schedule, the closures will be implemented at once, rather than in a gradual phase-in as had been planned.

Airport operators in several states, including Florida, Illinois and Washington state, and the U.S. Contract Tower Association, which represents the companies that operate contract towers, have filed lawsuits with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington seeking to halt the closures.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 6, 2013 B9

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