Two Miss. airport towers spared in cutsPublished 12:14am Sunday, March 24, 2013
JACKSON (AP) — Airports in Columbus and Meridian will keep their control towers, but five others in Mississippi will close starting in April
Among the 149 towers that the Federal Aviation Administration will close are those at Greenville’s Mid-Delta Regional Airport, Jackson’s Hawkins Field, Bay St. Louis’ Stennis International Airport, Olive Branch Airport and Tupelo Regional Airport. Towers will shut down in phases over four weeks beginning April 7.
The FAA is closing control towers as part of $637 million in mandated automatic federal budget cuts. Losing a tower doesn’t close an airport. But pilots who are landing and taking off must communicate with each other by radio instead of relying on controllers. The lack of a tower makes airports ineligible for military flights and could slow operations.
It’s proximity to military air bases that appears to have spared Columbus’ Golden Triangle Regional Airport and Meridian’s Key Field. Officials had said that Columbus Air Force Base is moving planes to Golden Triangle to allow the base to keep training students while its main runway was closed for work.
FAA said reasons for sparing towers included national security threats, economic impact beyond a local community, harm to multi-state transportation, communication or financial networks, or airports that relieve large commercial hubs.
Towers at Jackson-Medgar Evers International Airport and Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, the state’s busiest commercial hubs, were never threatened.
Josh Abramson, executive director of Tupelo Regional Airport, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/Zk0tsK) that he met with the FAA to see what funding might be available for the Tupelo tower.
The FAA pays the contracting company in Tupelo more than $500,000 annually to staff the tower. Nationwide, the FAA contracts tower services at 251 airports, while others are staffed with direct FAA employees.
Abramson said Tupelo could keep its tower open if it took over paying controllers, but probably won’t.
“The city is aware of it, but the question hasn’t been raised,” he said.
With the airport’s finances already stressed, he said it would difficult for the city to pay more to keep the tower open.
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com