DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - The expected closures of three air traffic control towers in Michigan are among 149 nationwide that will now be delayed.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday it needs more time to deal with legal challenges to the closures, which were announced two weeks ago due to government-wide spending cuts known as sequestration, which went into effect March 1.
The planned tower shutdowns, which were expected to begin Sunday, include those at W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek, Coleman A. Young in Detroit and Sawyer International in Marquette County’s Sands Township.
The FAA said all of the airport towers, which are operated by private contractors for the agency, would be closed or turned over to local authorities on June 15. The new schedule is to implement the shutdowns at once, rather than a gradual phase-in as had been planned.
Ahead of the expected closures, Battle Creek officials entered into a six-month contract with a private company to keep the control tower open at W.K. Kellogg Airport. Officials say Friday’s announcement likely means the contract will “have to be put into neutral.”
The FAA is being forced to trim $637 million for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. The agency said it had no choice but to subject most of its 47,000 employees, including tower controllers, to periodic furloughs and to close air traffic facilities at small airports with lighter traffic.
The airports that were targeted for tower shutdowns have fewer than 150,000 total flight operations per year, according to the FAA. Of those, fewer than 10,000 are commercial flights by passenger airlines.
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