The Federal Aviation Administration says it will de-fund the air traffic control tower at the Central Illinois Regional Airport as part of cuts related to the federal sequester. Also on the closure list of 149 airport towers nationwide are ones in Decatur, Alton, Carbondale, and Waukegan. The list is smaller than the 238 originally targeted as the FAA offered some exemptions to airports that receive federal money such as Marion, Illinois....and in cases where closures would create a threat to national security; have a significant negative economic impact extending beyond the local community; have a negative impact on transportation, communication, or financial networks; or hurt an airport that is a critical reliever for a large hub airport. Those targeted had fewer than 150,000 takeoffs and landings last year. It's unclear how large an impact a closure might eventually have, though aviation businesses prefer to fly out of facilities that have their own dedicated towers The FAA did grant some exemptions for economic hardship or where airports served as overflow targets for high traffic facilities. Meanwhile, a response from the airport in Bloomington indicates the tower will be kept open through local measures. Carl Olson is the Airport Director.
Authority Chairman Paul Harmon and Olson say they do not have complete details developed on those alternatives to keep uninterrupted service, but they will be announced as they are finalized. State Farm Insurance has also issued a statement indicating it stands ready to ensure air service support for CIRA continues at the same level and quality. Olson says he does not have cost estimates available for the public on maintaining service and he is not yet disclosing other community partners involved in the effort. He says the airport will be able to maintain tower functions over the medium term. Federal funding would phase out over the next month. The airport slams the FAA decision calling it shortsighted and maintains the airport is a victim of thoughtless politics. The Aircraft owners and pilots association is urging pilots to refresh their knowledge of operations at non towered airports...such as right of way rules, collision avoidance procedures, and non standard flight operations. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood of Peoria says the FAA "heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions." LaHood says "Unfortunately the agency is faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts."
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