FAA says it will keep towers open

The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday it will keep 149 air towers in smaller airports open – at least through the summer.

That means six airports in Connecticut, including Hartford-Brainard Airport and Tweed- New Haven Regional Airport, will continue to be staffed with air traffic controllers until Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. Whether they continue on the job will be determined when Congress approves a budget for 2014.

The FAA planned to shut 149 towers to help save money required by the sequester, or recent across- the- board spending cuts.  But Congress approved a bill last month that allows the FAA to move money around.

The bill “will allow the FAA to transfer sufficient funds to end employee furloughs and keep the 149 low activity contract towers originally slated for closure in June open for the remainder of fiscal year 2013,” the Department of Transportation said in a statement.

The FAA had been under pressure from lawmakers in Congress to keep the towers open.

“The Federal Aviation Administration did the right thing today…” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal ,D-Conn. “The planned closures were unwise and unnecessary and would have caused harm to countless residents who work at these airports and the regional economies that depend on their services.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, R-3rd District, said she would continue to fight to ensure the FAA gets the funding it needs to keep the towers open beyond September 30. 

But DeLauro said the sequester’s cuts to other programs should also be reversed and blamed the GOP for failure to reach a compromise on cutting federal spending.

“While today’s announcement is good news, it does nothing to help the millions of Americans suffering because of the indiscriminate, harmful budget cuts forced on them by congressional Republicans who refuse to negotiate a real solution to our economic challenges,” DeLauro said.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, called the FAA’s action good news, but also a “Band Aid.”

“Unfortunately, we are not even close to a final resolution on defusing the sequester, which continues to threaten children in the Head Start program and seniors who rely on Meals on Wheels,” he said in a statement.