FAA reprieve delays Nashua Airport control tower closing
BENJAMIN KLEIN Union Leader Correspondent
NASHUA - Much to the delight of state, local, and Nashua Municipal Airport officials, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that it would delay the imminent closure of 149 air traffic control towers across the country until June 15.
According to a release put out by the FAA announcing the delay, the extra time is needed to allow the federal agency to address multiple legal challenges filed against it by airports across the country.
Nashua Airport Authority Board of Commissioners Chair Donald Davidson said he was thrilled by the news, not only because the airport's tower will remain open but because the Authority won't have to spend its own money to keep it that way. Davidson had announced Thursday that the airport was prepared to spend the $34,000 required to keep the tower open another month after it was originally scheduled to lose federal funding this Sunday.
"Man oh man, it is Christmas time in April," Davidson said.
The FAA's announcement also brought responses from members of New Hampshire's delegation to Washington D.C., who Davidson said has been very supportive regarding the tower situation.
"This is good news, but we still need a long-term solution that removes any uncertainty surrounding the control tower at Nashua Airport," said U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R).
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen said, "At a time when much work needs to be done to strengthen our economy, it is critical that we protect our investments, and closing Nashua Airport's tower on the heels of a $24 million investment simply does not make economic sense."
If the tower closures go ahead on June 15, the FAA said it would stop funding all 149 towers at the same time instead of trying to close them in tiers.
"Hopefully we won't have to worry about this again," Davidson said, "Hopefully Congress will do something."
Even if federal funding for the towers does disappear on June 15, Davidson said the extra time is still invaluable because it allows the Airport Authority plenty of time to find alternate funding sources.
Even with the extra time to prepare Davidson said it would have a tremendous impact on safety if the towers were to close, and that the FAA has not given airports enough time to adjust to the change.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood acknowledged the safety concern, saying, "This has been a complex process and we need to get this right.