Gary Jet Center to appeal tower closure

2013-03-12T14:56:00Z 2013-03-12T16:07:07Z Gary Jet Center to appeal tower closureBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The Gary Jet Center plans to appeal the Federal Aviation Administration's decision to close the control tower for Gary/Chicago International Airport.

"We believe this airport has national interest considerations and its tower should be kept open," said Gary Jet Center Managing Partner Lynn Eplawy on Tuesday.

The Jet Center has just one day to get its appeal in and will enlist other airport tenants in the effort, Eplawy said. The Jet Center is the airport's fixed base operator, providing fueling and other aviation services.

The effort to appeal the FAA's decision comes one day after Gary/Chicago International Airport management revealed it would not contest the tower closing, which is slated for April 7.

Eplawy said the Jet Center was taken by surprise by airport management's decision. The tower is one of 189 towers the FAA plans to close down nationwide due to federal sequester budget cuts.

Last week the federal agency sent letters to airports giving them until this Wednesday to appeal. Next week, it will tell airports if their appeals were successful or not.

The FAA in its letter said a tower closing will be reversed only for "national interest considerations." Eplawy said by that criteria the Gary airport tower should remain open.

She pointed out the airport is a key part of FAA temporary flight restrictions whenever President Obama visits Chicago.

During the NATO summit last May, pilots were able to comply with temporary flight restrictions that required constant contact between pilots and air traffic control by calling into the Gary tower. The tower is the only one in Northwest Indiana.

The Gary airport also hosts an Indiana National Guard armory and flight-readiness center with UH-60 Blackhawk and OH-58 Kiowa helicopters for responses to emergencies and threats throughout the Chicago region.

The FAA in its letter stated national interest considerations include significant threats to national security, adverse economic impact beyond the local area, significant impacts on multi-state transportation, and the extent to which the airport is a critical diversionary airport for a large aviation hub.

The Gary airport is a primary diversionary airport for United Airlines flights going to and from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Eplawy said. And a recent study done by the Aviation Association of Indiana demonstrated it has broad economic impact beyond just the region, she added.

 

 

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