- Plan to close dozens of control towers during overnight hours scrapped
- Uncertain if agency will ultimately close 149 contractor towers
- Budget pressures at center of FAA decisions on tower staffing
The Obama administration has reversed a decision to close several dozen air traffic control facilities during overnight hours due to budget pressures, but still is considering plans to shut down a large number of smaller facilities operated by contractors.
The decision by the Federal Aviation Administration comes two weeks after Congress allowed it to end controller furloughs, also imposed due to sweeping government-wide cuts in spending that took effect in March.
The FAA had planned to cut overnight staffing at 72 towers from Atlantic City, New Jersey, to Fresno, California, but an agency statement on Wednesday said that step would not occur "at this time."
It has already delayed closing 149 air traffic facilities run by private contractors at mainly small and medium airports due to forced budget cuts, which require the FAA to save $253 million through September 30.
There is no word when those closures might occur, if at all. The agency has come under political and aviation industry pressure to keep them open.
A representative of the contract towers said he remains optimistic that the FAA will spare them.
Aviation-related budget cuts have become a visible flashpoint in the partisan-fueled debate over spending in Washington.
They have been highlighted by many to illustrate a clear nationwide consequence of the $85 billion in government-wide spending cuts that took effect in March and may otherwise not be apparent to the public.
Those automatic cuts were activated after Congress failed to reach an agreement on deficit reduction.