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Control Towers At Smaller Northwest Airports Likely To Get Reprieve

Beth Redfield

The White House says President Obama will sign a fast-tracked Congressional bill to end the furloughs of air traffic controllers. Operators of smaller Northwest airports hope the measure also stops the planned closure of their control towers.

As of now, more than a dozen of the less busy airport control towers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho remain on a list to be deactivated in early June. They're potential casualties of across-the-board federal budget cuts at the Federal Aviation Administration.

Congressional legislation to soften the impact of "sequestration" does not explicitly reverse that course. But airport industry association president Spencer Dickerson says the FAA knows that's the legislative intent.

"Before they were saying they didn't have the resources, they didn't have any flexibility and they didn't have any discretion. Now they do," Dickerson says. "That obstacle has been removed."

Neither Dickerson nor the FAA could say how soon the affected airport operators will get certainty about continued control tower operations. In flight school, all pilots learn how to take off and land at an airfield without a staffed control tower.

The FAA started its budget cutting exercise with a list of 237 airports with takeoffs and landings below a certain threshold. Then the agency repeatedly winnowed that list to get to the 149 airport control towers currently targeted nationwide. Here's the latest list of air traffic control towers at small to medium sized Northwest airports which were at risk of closure by the FAA. These control towers are operated by a federal contractor named Serco:

Hailey/Sun Valley
Idaho Falls

North Bend/Coos Bay
Salem Municipal

Renton Municipal
Olympia Regional
Tacoma Narrows
Spokane (Felts Field)

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.