Middle Georgia Regional Airport tower to close

The air traffic control tower at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport will remain open until June 15. The tower was expected to close April 21 due to stymieing of federal funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. However, the FAA delayed cuts, citing legal and safety concerns.
“This has been a complex process, and we need to get this right,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”
The FAA announced last month it would be cutting federal funding to 149 air traffic control towers across the nation, including control towers in Albany, Athens, Kennesaw and Lawrenceville.
The FAA made the decision to cut funding to control towers at small airports in response to across-the-board spending cuts initiated by the Budget Sequester of 2013. The FAA must make up for $637 million in cuts.
The decision to cut spending has met stiff resistance from airport operators, and some have threatened legal action.
According to an FAA press release, “This additional time will allow the agency to attempt to resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions.”
Doug Faour, manager of the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, spoke to the Public Properties Committee to discuss post-funding options.
When councilman Lonnie Miley asked Faour how many jobs would be cut at the airport, Faour replied, “Anywhere from two to four employees.”
Miley then asked Faour what options were on the table.
“We are continuing to look for ways to keep the tower open,” Faour said. He said the airport has contacted both “state and local officials.”
The airport is talking with Warner Robins Air Force Base and Middle Georgia State College about providing assistance. Macon State operates a control tower at the Eastman airport.
Faour is also looking for alternative funding sources. The airport could try to assume the FAA contract, hire a private contractor (which would cost less than what FAA pays the tower operators) or pay city employees to operate the control tower.
Committee chair Rick Hutto reaffirmed to his fellow committee members that the airport is looking for options not requiring the city to “write a check.”
The city could, of course, let the control tower close, but pilots using the airport would have to self-regulate air traffic via radio.
According to the Macon Telegraph, the end of funding from the FAA will not affect Silver Airways’ planned passenger flights which began April 1.
If the tower stays closed, it will have a serious impact on the airport’s efforts to encourage air service development and facilitate maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft, Faour told the Public Properties Committee last month.