Eleventh-hour effort to save airport tower funding

By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Tupelo Regional Airport won’t find out until March 22 if it will lose its tower.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday it is having to delay making its decision on which of the 189 airports will face the loss of a tower due to funding cuts.
Tupelo is among 172 towers that will presumably be closed by $600 million in funding cuts. All 189 airports had the opportunity to submit letters to the FAA to explain how a tower closure would adversely affect the national interest. The appeals were due Wednesday night.
Josh Abramson, executive director of the Tupelo Regional Airport, said he assumes the FAA needed more than two business days to review those letters.
“In order to review comprehensively the submission on behalf of each airport, the FAA will delay the date of its final decision and announcement of which airport tower operations it intends to cease to fund,” said David Grizzle, chief operating officer of the FAA.
Abramson said he does not think the FAA will be able to keep the tower closure from happening eventually, but there is legislation being considered that could.
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran introduced an amendment to the Senate continuing a resolution that would stop the FAA from implementing funding cuts to air traffic control towers. Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran supports the Moran amendment.
A spokesperson for Cochran said the senator has reached out to Michael Huerta, chairman of the FAA, to express his concern in the handling of tower funding cuts, particularly regarding airports used for military training.
Sen. Roger Wicker’s office could not be reached for comment.
Public concern has been expressed over safety issues that could arise if airport towers across the country are forced to close. Tupelo airport officials say that Silver Airlines daily flight service to Atlanta will not be affected.
Still, there are safety benefits from the air traffic control tower. “We’re doing everything we can to fight for these guys here in Tupelo,” said Abramson.
Congress is under intense pressure to pass a budget by Friday when the members leave for Easter recess.
If a deal is not reached by March 27, the U.S. government will effectively shut down.
sarah.robinson@journalinc.com