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Ohio State Airport to keep control tower until June despite sequester

Courtesy of OSU

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The Ohio State University airport might still have an air traffic control tower come June, after the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Association (FAA) announced it will delay its plan to cut funding for air traffic control towers at 149 airports across the country.
The FAA announced on March 22 it would begin a four-week phase-out of funding to air traffic control towers on April 7 as part of a required $637 million budget cut from sequestration.
According to an April 5 press release, the administration will now cut funding on June 15, in order to give the FAA and airports more time to make changes to the National Airspace System, an aviation system that ensures safe, efficient travel across the U.S.
“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” said Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation secretary in a press release. “Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”
OSU airport’s air traffic control tower, currently funded by the FAA, costs about $650,000 to operate and services some 70,000 operations annually. Airport director Doug Hammon told The Lantern in a March 27 interview that officials were concerned about the possible closure of the tower due to its use in maintaining safe and efficient take-offs, landings and ground operations for a wide range of pilots, including students involved in OSU’s aviation program.
An unnamed student enrolled in the OSU aviation program who spoke to The Lantern under terms of anonymity, said for student pilots, an air traffic control tower provides ground control and can alleviate stress when it comes to safe flight training.
“Specifically to aviation students, it’s something that keeps us safe,” the student said. “It’s not uncommon to have four or five planes up in a pattern at OSU flying around, so having to coordinate that, I mean you worry about yourself when you’re up there, so to have someone on the ground taking care of that is, I think, imperative.”
The source also said for students to gain experience working with air traffic control towers was important for those hoping to pursue careers as professional pilots.
“We are very fortunate to have our home base have a tower, because later on when we’re flying commercially, all we’re going to be doing is talking to control towers, talking to people on the ground and in the air,” the student said. “So to be able to start out talking to someone is going to set us that much further ahead in our careers.”
Jennifer Cowley, associate dean of academic affairs and administration at the OSU College of Engineering, agreed that communication with an air traffic control tower was an important part of students’ flight education, and said the university, which has been exploring options to have the tower privately funded, was focusing on working with the FAA to keep the tower open long-term.
“At this point in time, we are focusing our efforts on convincing the FAA to keep our tower open,” Cowley said. “We are currently awaiting a response from the FAA on our request.”

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