Allegiant will continue Gary flights despite tower closure

2013-03-22T13:57:00Z 2013-03-24T09:57:06Z Allegiant will continue Gary flights despite tower closureKeith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The Federal Aviation Administration has rejected an appeal from Gary/Chicago International Airport, keeping its control tower on a list of 149 nationwide to be closed.

The FAA released a revised list of tower closures Friday that reversed course on 24 contract tower closures, but not the Gary airport's, said Gary Airport Interim Director Steve Landry.

However, Allegiant Air, with two flights weekly from Gary to Florida, has informed the Gary airport it will continue to fly despite the tower shutdown, Landry said.

The FAA has informed airports it will begin a phased closing of the 149 contract control towers on April 7 that will continue for four weeks, Landry said. Contract control towers are staffed by private aviation companies paid by the FAA.

Gary airport staff has estimated it would cost $350,000 to $500,000 per year to keep the tower open.

"There are procedures in place for pilots to communicate among themselves to maintain safety," Landry said. "But the efficiency of the airport will be drawn down."

The Columbus Municipal Airport tower is the only other contract tower in Indiana on the FAA's closure list. In Illinois, five towers are on the list, including Waukegan National Airport.

The Gary Jet Center filed its own appeal of the FAA's original closure list. Owner Wil Davis said the tower could be kept open if funding could be found.

"We have to figure out how we will fund it, and we'll have to find it locally," he said. "Just from a pure safety standpoint this has to be solved."

The FAA suffered $637 million in cuts under the federal budget sequestration that went into effect earlier this month. It is also contemplating widespread furloughs of staff, which may effect towers that it staffs at larger airports.

“We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Unfortunately, we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency will work with local airports where towers are closed to maintain safety.

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