FAA: Dubuque, 148 other U.S. air traffic control towers to close - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

FAA: Dubuque, 148 other U.S. air traffic control towers to close

Dubuque Regional Airport Dubuque Regional Airport

The Dubuque Regional Airport will soon be without an air traffic control tower after the Federal Aviation Administration opted to close it and 148 others across the country, the agency announced Friday.

A total of 149 air traffic control towers, most at smaller airports around the U.S., will be closed beginning April 7 as part of nearly $600 million the FAA must cut by Sept. 30 as part of a congressional mandate, according to CNN.

The Dubuque Regional Airport (DBQ) coordinates American Airlines flights to and from Chicago O'Hare and is in the midst of building a new terminal.

"I'm very disappointed in the FAA and I question their priorities and decision-making process," said Robert Grierson, Dubuque Regional Airport manager, in a written statement Friday. "The FAA Mission Statement Vision is 'strive to reach the next level of safety.' That the FAA would even consider eliminating Air Traffic Control Towers that handle more than 25 percent of daily operations in our nation is discouraging to say the least."

Grierson added that the airport would stay open.

"DBQ will continue to operate and we will make the changes needed to ensure safety remains our paramount concern," Grierson said.

Airports without air traffic control towers can stay open by coordinating a system of pilot-to-pilot communication.

Gregory Sapp is air traffic manager at the Dubuque Regional airport. He says, a system of pilot-to-pilot will be a lot slower than just looking out a window.

"It's going to be a slower process and there is a level of safety that is gone that used to be here. There is a lot of traffic at this airport so we are concerned about that." Sapp said.

The U.S. Contract Tower Association also believe the change may cause safety issues.

"Contract towers have long been an integral part of the FAA's system of managing the nation's complex airspace," said USCTA executive director J. Spencer Dickerson in a written statement. "The decision to shutter these critical air traffic control facilities on such an unprecedented and wide-scale basis raises serious concerns about safety -- both at the local level and throughout the aviation system."

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley also issued the following statement regarding the tower closure:

"I'm extremely disappointed that the FAA has decided to close the Dubuque air traffic control tower," he said. "This decision is the direct result of Congress' recklessness and failure to make smart decisions about deficit reduction.

"This is exactly why I broke with my party yesterday and opposed a short-term government funding bill that continues the sequester through the end of September and allows the closure of the Dubuque air traffic control tower to go forward. That bill was bad for Dubuque and now we're seeing its effect.

"It's Congress' responsibility to make the tough decisions about what programs to cut and what programs to keep. I'm going to keep working to convince Congress to accept that responsibility and do their job to reduce the debt. In the meantime, I'll do everything I can to pressure the FAA to reverse this misguided decision."

At one point, the Waterloo Tower (ALO) in Waterloo and Sioux Gateway (SUX) in Sioux City were also slated to have their towers closed, but neither airport made the final list of tower closures.

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