Both of the Utah air traffic control towers facing possible closure due to federal budget cuts received bad news today. The Provo and Ogden towers were not spared the cuts handed down by the FAA and are now scheduled to shut down on April 7.
A total of 149 towers will close meaning controllers here and across the country will soon be out of work. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the FAA faced difficult choices to meet the necessary budget cuts under sequestration. Ogden airport manager Royal Eccles said the move doesn’t make sense when it comes to public safety.
"Once again, I think this is political ping-pong. This is public safety and this is ridiculous. If they can't find the money in some other part of the budget of the FAA, why are they taking the cut in the FAA and taking it out of the contract tower, which is their most successful, efficient use of their funds," Eccles said.
The Ogden airport is part of Allegiant Airlines’ network which offers service to Mesa AZ. Ogden’s tower also accommodates traffic from pilots in training, Hill Air Force Base and other commercial operators. But the FAA determined the airport didn’t meet the number of yearly operations required to keep the tower open.
"The initial criteria they asked for was 150 thou general aviation operations or ten thou commercial operations. We don't have that. But my proximity to HAFB is more critical. If you want to count operations, I have way above that above my head, because of the operations into Hill, all the operations in Salt Lake that transition over me," Eccles said.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said his office 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.
Not all airports use air traffic control towers. St. George and Logan, for example, both receive commercial traffic without the assistance of air traffic control. Pilots landing at uncontrolled airports are responsible to see and avoid other traffic.