Sacramento County airports department officials said today they are looking into ways they can pay to keep the Sacramento Executive Airport traffic control tower open if the federal government follows through on a plan to cut tower financing.
"Like other airports, we are looking into the possibility of funding the tower at Executive Airport," airports spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said today in an emailed statement. "However, we need to investigate the best way to do this, what hours would be optimum for staffing, and other logistical issues."
Executive Airport's tower is on a list of 149 sites planned for closure by the Federal Aviation Administration as part of federal budget cutbacks.
The agency had initially announced it would begin some closures Sunday.
In an announcement today, however, the FAA said it is postponing closures until June 15 to give the federal government more time to deal with legal challenges to the closures.
Local airport officials say they are monitoring the issue.
"The fact that the FAA has postponed tower closures shows how this situation continues to evolve," Slothower said. "We still do not know the outcome."
Sacramento Executive on Freeport Boulevard handles thousands of general aviation flights annually, and the tower already sometimes goes unmanned while planes are using the airport. Local airport officials have said they are disappointed by the federal government's closure plans, but point out that McClellan, Rancho Murieta and Lincoln airports already operate without an air traffic control tower.
FAA officials have said they are contemplating limiting hours at FAA towers at larger airports, including possibly shutting down the Sacramento International tower after midnight. The agency has not, however, completed any large airport tower closure plans. Local airport officials said today they have not heard anything definitive regarding a tower closure at Sacramento International.
The Associated Press reports about 50 airport authorities and other stakeholders have indicated they want to fund the operations of the towers themselves rather than see them shut down. FAA officials said more time will be needed to work out those plans.
The U.S. Contract Tower Association, which represents the companies that operate contract towers, has challenged the closures in federal court, the AP reported.
"The administration has decided to make tower closures the poster child of sequestration (automatic spending cuts)," said the group's director, J. Spencer Dickerson. "We believe there are other ways they could have skinned this cat."
Federal officials have insisted that the closures wouldn't affect safety. And there is evidence that with improving safety, some of the closures would make economic sense.
According to the AP, the FAA has been using 30-year-old data on aircraft collisions to justify the cost of operating many of the control towers, even though accident rates have improved significantly over that time.