Twenty-three air traffic control towers in California are among more than 200 nationwide scheduled to close April 7 as the Federal Aviation Administration begins imposing $600 million in federal budget cuts.
It was unknown which traffic control towers would be affected when the automatic federal budget cuts in the so-called sequestration kicked in March 1, but the FAA last week released a list of airports, mainly small and medium-sized, that will be affected.
They include airports in Riverside, Fullerton and El Monte.
The majority -- 195 -- of traffic control towers scheduled to close are operated by outside contractors. An additional 43 are operated by the FAA.
“The Contract Tower Program has a well-established record of success in enhancing air safety and efficiency in communities across the country in a cost-effective manner to taxpayers,” said J. Spencer Dickerson, executive director of the U.S. Contract Tower Assn., in a statement.
“The prospect of closing nearly 195 contract towers nationwide along with 43 FAA-staffed towers because of sequestration is inconceivable given the very real impact it would have nationwide, and yet it appears to be a real possibility," Dickerson said.
[Updated at 1:42 p.m.: The FAA said only air traffic control towers operated under its Contract Tower Control Program will be affected. Santa Monica's tower, which is FAA-operated, is not among towers scheduled to close April 7.]
Federal aviation officials have previously said overnight shifts would be shut down at air traffic control towers, but tower operations at some airports may face outright closure.
The federal agency has also put out the option of furloughing FAA employees for one or two days per two-week pay period, beginning in mid-April.
At Los Angeles International Airport, officials previously said it is too early to gauge how much of an effect the budget cuts would have on the average air traveler, but warned of delays.
The closures, however, are not yet final. The FAA will issue a final closure list on March 18, the Associated Press reported.
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