Gary control tower, others will remain open until June

2013-04-05T13:28:00Z 2013-04-08T10:45:19Z Gary control tower, others will remain open until JuneKeith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The Federal Aviation Administration has informed Gary/Chicago International Airport that its control towers and others nationwide will stay open until mid-June before falling victim to federal sequestration budget cuts.

The Gary tower was slated to close April 21 as part of a phased closure of 149 FAA-funded towers at smaller airports nationwide. The first ones were to be closed this weekend.

Landry said the the reprieve was good news for the airport, which he has maintained would remain safe without the tower but less efficient in handling air traffic coming in and out.

Allegiant airline had said it would maintain its twice-a-week flights out of Gary to Orlando/Sanford International Airport even if the tower closed.

Allegiant will undertake a seasonal suspension of flights from Gary to the Florida airport from April 15 to June 5, which is not related to the threat of tower closures. The airline suspended flights during a similar slow traffic period in the fall.

The new tower closing date nationwide is now June 15, when all towers will be shut down at once or turned over to local authorities that have agreed to pay for staffing them, according to the FAA.

The FAA contends it needs more time to deal with legal challenges to the closures.

The U.S. Contract Tower Association, which represents the companies that operate contract towers, has challenged the closures in federal court.

"The administration has decided to make tower closures the poster child of sequestration (automatic spending cuts)," said the group's director, J. Spencer Dickerson. "We believe there are other ways they could have skinned this cat."

Federal officials have insisted that the closures wouldn't affect safety. And there is evidence that with improving safety, some of the closures would make economic sense.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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