COLUMBIA - The manager of the Columbia Regional Airport confirmed early Friday afternoon the control tower at the airport is on the list of contract towers set to close some time between April 7 and May 7 due to federal sequestration. Don Elliott said the tower is one of 149 set to close. There was no exact closing date given for the facility.
Public Information Specialist Steven Sapp told KOMU 8 News Friday the closure would not cancel flights in and out of the airport. Sapp said take-offs and landings in Columbia would be handled by Mizzou Approach Control based in Springfield.
The city released the e-mail it received from the FAA outlining the closing, dated Friday. It is from FAA CEO David Grizzle and states, "In early March, FAA proposed to close 189 contract air traffic control towers as part of its plan to meet the $637 million in cuts required under budget sequestration and announced that it would consider keeping open any of these towers if doing so would be in the national interest. The National interest considerations included: (1)
significant threats to national security as determined by the FAA in consultation with the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security; (2) significant, adverse economic impact that is beyond the impact on a local community; (3) significant impact on multi-state transportation, communication or banking/financial networks; and (4) the extent to which an airport currently served by a contract tower is a critical diversionary airport to a large hub.
In addition to reviewing materials submitted on behalf of towers on the closure list, DOT consulted with the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and conducted operational assessments of each potential tower closure on the national air transportation system. As a result, 24 federal contract towers will remain open because closing them would have a negative impact on the national interest. The FAA will begin a four-week phased closure of 149 federal contract towers beginning on April 7.
An additional 16 number of federal contract towers under the "cost share" program will be able to remain open because Congressional statute sets aside funds every fiscal year for these towers. These funds are subject to sequestration but the required 5 percent cut will not result in tower closures.
Some communities will elect to participate in FAA's non-federal tower program and assume the cost of continued, on-site air traffic control services at their airport (see Advisory Circular AC 90-93A). The FAA is committed to facilitating this transition."
Jefferson City's tower is on a list of "cost-share" facilities that will remain open. Sapp said the Columbia City Council will consider a similar cost-share agreement so it can reopen the tower in the future.
KOMU 8 spoke to passengers who arrived at Columbia Regional Airport Friday evening. One passenger, who did not wish to be named, said it was "scary" that there would be such a great distance from the control tower in Springfield to Columbia's airport.
Another man waiting in the baggage claim area called the move "political," likening it to the recent postal service cutbacks.
The entire list of towers to close is located here.