FAA delays closure of Kalispell air traffic control tower, others

2013-04-06T13:15:00Z 2013-04-25T20:23:45Z FAA delays closure of Kalispell air traffic control tower, others missoulian.com

KALISPELL – Glacier Park International’s lone air traffic control tower will remain open until at least June 15 following the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to delay the closure of 149 air traffic control facilities at small airports nationwide.

Last month, the FAA announced it would eliminate funding for these towers as part of the agency’s required $637 million budget cuts under sequestration.

The tower at Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell was among the facilities scheduled to close, but the Flathead Municipal Airport Authority, along with numerous trade groups representing companies that operate the towers, sued the FAA to keep it open. It was scheduled to close next month.

According to a statement from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the additional time will allow the agency to attempt to resolve the legal challenges.

“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” LaHood said. “Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”

Approximately 50 airport authorities and other stakeholders have indicated they may join the FAA’s non-Federal Contract Tower program and fund the tower operations themselves.

Glacier Park International operated without a control tower for 60 years, until 2001, but in a letter to FAA administrator Michael Huerta, GPI director Cindi Martin raised concerns about safety and efficiency if the closure occurs.

“Closure of the tower at GPI would adversely impact the national interest and would unacceptably compromise safety at GPI,” Martin wrote.

In the letter, Martin laid out the challenges she anticipates the airport would face in the event of a tower closure and the dangers of negotiating the mountainous terrain surrounding the facility without controllers sequencing planes and guiding them on takeoff and landing.

“Without a tower to provide communication to pilots during these operations, chances of a mid-air collision increase dramatically,” Martin wrote. “We request that FAA recognize the unique and serious safety consequences of closing the federal contract tower at GPI, and remove it from the list of closures.”

Reach Tristan Scott at @tristanscott, at tristan.scott@missoulian.com or at (406) 531-9745.

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(2) Comments

  1. us citizen
    Report Abuse
    us citizen - April 07, 2013 8:38 am
    why would you put the lives of hard working american in jepordy the government is always making cuts in the wrong areas the military, elderly why don't these over paid polaticians take a pay cut instead of voting themselves a raise or even a bigger waste of money the welfare system most of these people don't work because they get everything given to them so you are going to make it more dangerous for people who are paying there taxes who are funding these system abusers makes no sense to me but when does the government make any sense
  2. Aberdeen
    Report Abuse
    Aberdeen - April 06, 2013 11:28 am
    JUst a few questions:
    1. How many commercial flights a day into Glacier International?
    2. How many non-commercial flights?
    3. What hours do the total of 4 Controllers work? 24/7 or something less?
    4. What was the accident rate prior to 2001 when there was no Controllers?
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