Albany mayor reacts to airport tower closure delay - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Albany mayor reacts to airport tower closure delay

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Good news for Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration pushed back to June 15th the closure dates for airport control towers set to shut down because of the sequester budget cuts.

It gives the city more time to study options to try to keep the tower running.

The closure of 149 airport control towers across the nation is delayed after trade groups representing companies that operate the towers under contracts with the FAA filed a federal lawsuit.

Southwest Georgia Regional Airport officials are grateful tower employees get to keep their jobs for now but still hope for a long-term solution.

"They're going to be employed until June 15th. On June 15th the FAA is no longer going to fund that tower, so we as a city have to decide whether to fund that tower beyond June 15th or we're just going to completely shut it down," said Deputy Director Ken Johnson.

The FAA says about 50 cities have expressed desires to control the towers and the city of Albany is one of them. Now this delay gives officials more time to explore new options.

"You're talking about public safety, you're talking about getting the planes in and out on time and you're talking about if you let it go you're probably never going to get it back," said Mayor Dorothy Hubbard.

City officials are looking at taking control of the tower to make sure there's no disruption to cargo flights, but that could cost $500,000 a year. 

Southwest Georgia Regional is the second busiest cargo airport in Georgia.

"When you have those huge jets flying in with that cargo on them, it's important to be guided in here in a timely manner," said Mayor Hubbard.

Mayor Hubbard says it's also vital to have an operating tower when the new terminal opens this summer.

"To get a new airport and not have the new equipment to go with it is not where we ought to be and where we need to be going so it's going to be huge," said Mayor Hubbard.

Airport officials say operations will go on as usual even without a manned control tower.

"The airport will not close. The airport will remain open and operations will not change," said Johnson.

The Albany control tower is one of five in Georgia set to close.

 

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