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Renton Airport Tower Closure Postponed to June 15

Renton Airport and 148 other air traffic control towers across the US were scheduled to begin this Sunday, April 7.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it will delay the closures of all 149 federal contract air traffic control towers — including one at Renton Airport Clayton Scott Field — until June 15.

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, according to a news release.

“We’re pleased to hear that the FAA has delayed the closure of our tower,” said Renton Mayor Denis Law. “Our number one priority is public safety, and we hope that the FAA will reconsider this closure and resolve their budget issues in a way that doesn’t close the tower and potentially put the public at risk.”

The additional time, said officials, will allow the agency to attempt to resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions. The city of Renton The city filed the petition challenging the process by which the FAA decided to close the towers. Many other airports across the country have filed similar challenges.

As part of the tower closure implementation process, the agency continues to consult with airports and operators and review appropriate risk mitigations. Extending the transition deadline will give the FAA and airports more time to execute the changes to the National Airspace System. 

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

As of today, 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. This additional time will allow the FAA to help facilitate that transition.

“We will continue our outreach to the user community to answer any questions and address their concerns about these tower closures,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

On March 22, the FAA announced that it would stop federal funding for 149 contract towers across the country. A phased, four-week closure process was scheduled to begin this Sunday, April 7. That phased closure process will no longer occur. Instead, the FAA will stop funding all 149 towers on June 15 and will close the facilities unless the airports decide to continue operations as a nonfederal contract tower.

(Ed. Note: This story was updated at 2 p.m. Friday with additional information.)

Phyllis Forister April 11, 2013 at 08:08 PM
Renton needs to have the Airport Tower to keep track of all the traffic that goes in and out of the Renton Airport. This air traffic goes out over our high school and the populated areas beyond it. We live in the flight plan as well. We have had planes fly so low over our house sometimes that we think they are going to fall on us. The helicopters shake our rafters. We have commercial flights going out of the Renton Airport. We have Boeing going out of the Renton Airport. We have all manner of private planes using the Renton Airport....including student pilots. The Tower might not be able to prevent air accidents but the tower personnel can at least keep track of the traffic and notice if improper flight plans might be setting up. Unless all the planes take off and/or land from the Lake Washington end of the airport many Renton citizens are put at risk every time a plane takes off or lands. We need to keep the Tower personnel!

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