Following pressure from Congressman Tom Reed's office and local stakeholders, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday announced its decision to delay closures of all 149 federal contract air traffic control towers until June 15th. The FAA previously reported the Ithaca Airport would be included in the final round of closures slated to occur the week of May 5th.
"While we hoped the announcement would be a reversal in the FAA's decision, we are glad to see they responded to the pressure our office placed on them," Reed said. "The delay is a step in the right direction as it provides the Administration additional time to produce an alternative plan to avoid tower closures."
The FAA has received strong input from the local community and stakeholders, including a letter Congressman Reed and 46 bipartisan colleagues sent Thursday, pressing the Administration to produce a plan that considers all possible alternatives to maintain services for contract air towers and ensure passenger safety.
"We are calling on the FAA to take immediate steps to avoid the tower closures and more evenly apply the required cuts," Reed said. "It is unfair for the contract tower program to take a 65-75 percent funding cut while other non-safety related FAA programs are only seeing cuts of five percent. Spending reduction should be shared fairly across all programs, projects and activities -- not disproportionately targeted at these control towers in smaller cities and rural communities."
The FAA initially announced that the Federal Contract Tower Program would see a budget cut of 75 percent in response to sequestration. The initial list of closures included four airports from across New York State in Ithaca, Niagara Falls, Rome, and Westhampton Beach. Last month, the FAA released its final list of closures which included both the Ithaca and Rome airports.
On the evening of that announcement, Rep. Reed spoke with the FAA's Chief Operating Officer for Air Traffic and was able to confirm that the capability of the Ithaca Airport will remain the same with regard to its capacity to handle commercial service.
"Though this is good news for constituents who utilize the Ithaca Airport, the efficient and safe operation of the airport remains my primary concern," Reed said following the call. "It is important we stay in close communication with the FAA, Ithaca Airport, and the community, as critical decisions are made in the coming weeks. Our communities deserve a response and our office will continue to push the FAA to provide one."