5 Ore. airport towers on FAA closure list

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 07, 2013 21:00 hrs

Five small airports in Oregon are on the Federal Aviation Administration list for potential control tower closings under the automatic budget cuts that took effect March 1.

The FAA says they are among 238 small airports under consideration nationwide with low traffic volumes and control towers operated by contractors.

The FAA is to make a decision by March 18 on closing about 170 of them. A letter to airport managers from FAA officials said the decision would be based solely on the national interest, and will not take into account local community impacts.

The Oregon airports are in Klamath Falls, North Bend, Pendleton, Salem and Troutdale.

If the towers close, the FAA says the airports will remain open. But pilots would be responsible for their own safety by talking to each other, instead of the tower.

The FAA has to cut $600 million under the automatic budget cuts. Other savings will come from furloughing FAA employees and other actions.

Klamath Falls Airport Director John Longley said he hoped to keep their tower open because commercial and private planes share the single runway with high-performance Oregon Air National Guard F-15C fighter jets based at Kingsley Field. The tower is operated by military and civilian personnel in the 270th Air Traffic Control squadron.

"Forty-five percent of all our operations are military aircraft," Longley said. "We are this sort of unique creature, a military-civilkian air field.

The airport has about 37,000 takeoffs and landings a year. United Airlines has four flights a day out of Klamath Falls, but three of them take off or land when the tower is closed, Longley said.

The mix of civilian and military aircraft is complicated in summer, when air tankers fly in and out with fire retardant, he added.

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