The announcement came just two days before the first of the towers was scheduled to be shuttered as part of across-the-board federal budget cuts approved by
The extension will allow the agency to deal with multiple lawsuits, continue consulting with airports and review safety issues, the FAA said in its statement.
Under the phased, monthlong closure schedule, Martin State Airport in
"This gives us a little more breathing room to figure something out," said Easton manager Mike Henry, who earlier in the day delivered a letter to Gov.
The Maryland Aviation Administration hailed the delay as a "sensible, correct decision … that will allow the critical work to go on."
"This announcement will allow the FAA to address the questions and concerns raised across the nation and across the industry," said MAA spokesman Jonathan Dean.
"This has been a complex process, and we need to get this right," LaHood said. "We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports."
About 750 to 1,100 controllers and supervisors were expected to lose their jobs, according to the U.S. Contract Tower Association. The workers are hired by private companies with FAA contracts to operate towers at small and mid-sized airports.
On Thursday, the Contract Tower Association and the American Association of Airport Executives filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit against the FAA, accusing the agency of singling out the contract towers and ignoring safety concerns.
"No justifiable reason exists to single out the contract tower program and make it the administration's poster child for
About 50 airport authorities and other interested parties have told the FAA that they are prepared to pay for tower operations. This additional time will allow the FAA to help smooth the transition.
Henry said the four Maryland towers run by local governments all face the same fiscal constraints and are not in a position to take on the added cost.
"We're looking at every option on the table and some that are under the table," Henry said jokingly. "We're not giving up."