Gary airport won't contest FAA tower closing

2013-03-11T15:30:00Z 2013-03-13T01:05:09Z Gary airport won't contest FAA tower closingKeith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The Gary/Chicago International Airport will not appeal a Federal Aviation Administration decision to close its control tower April 7, but it may consider other possibilities for keeping it staffed and open, according to Gary airport Project Manager Bob Gyurko.

The airport received a letter Friday from the FAA outlining the appeals process, as did 173 other airports with towers scheduled to close April 7 due to federal sequestration budget cuts.

Airports have until Wednesday to make appeals.

The FAA letter said the agency would consider appeals based only on national security interests and specifically ruled out those based on local interests such as jobs that would be lost, Gyurko said.

Gyurko was filling in for interim Airport Director Steve Landry at Monday's meeting of the airport authority board at the Airport Administration Building.

During the public comment section of the meeting, Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis emphasized how important it is to keep the tower open.

Closing the tower will make it difficult to recruit more airlines to the airport, as well as complicating efforts to sell other aircraft operators and businesses on its services, Davis said.

"We can't let that tower be vacated on April 8," Davis said. "Because once it's closed, it's closed."

The Gary airport is currently the only one in Northwest Indiana with a control tower. When it is closed at night, planes use instrument landing systems.

Airports have the option of staffing the towers themselves, but coming up with the $350,000 to $500,000 per year to keep the Gary tower staffed and operating would be very difficult for the airport authority, Gyurko said.

Allegiant airline is the only regularly scheduled commercial carrier flying out of the airport. The airline has said it will consider whether or not to keep flying to airports with closed towers on a case-by-case basis.

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