Airport officials criticize FAA decision to close Pa. towers

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday plans to close the air traffic control towers at Lancaster and Capital City airports as part of the recently enacted federal budget cuts known as the sequester.

The two airports’ towers had been identified a few weeks ago as being considered for closure but the final decision came Friday as the sites were among 149 federal contract towers across the country slated to close beginning April 7. The closures will be phased in over four weeks, the FAA said.

The administration said in making its decision on which towers to close it factored in such things as national security, safety and economic impacts.

“We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a news release. “Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration.”

Officials at Lancaster and Capital City criticized the decision, citing concerns with safety and questioning the wisdom of the cuts.

At Lancaster Airport, director David Eberly said there are a combined 90,000 arrivals and departures each year, a number he said has never been higher.

He acknowledged pilots are trained in landing at airports without manned towers all over the country. But, he said Lancaster Airport presents challenges.

“To (land) with crossing runways, our runways cross in the middle, hidden taxiways, and runways not visible from each other, I just think it’s a dangerous situation,” said Eberly.

At Capital City, officials said the control tower currently is unmanned between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily.

Timothy Edwards, executive director of the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority, said he was “extremely disappointed” in the decision, he pointed out the airport will remain open.

“We know the government spends way too much money,” said Harrisburg International Airport spokesman Scott Miller. “We’re not exactly sure why a program that’s been effective and efficient over the years is being cut by 60 to 70 percent nationwide.”