Van Kuren: No word on fate of air towers

By Corene Brisendine

The fate of Manhattan Regional Airport control tower funding is still up in the air, even though Congress passed the Safe and Reliable Air Travel Act that would allow the Federal Aviation Administration to shift funding from other FAA programs to cover the cost through the end of this fiscal year.

“We have not been contacted by anyone whatsoever,” on the status of the tower position that was to have been eliminated because of federal funding cutbacks, airport director Peter VanKuren said Thursday.

He said the last time airport officials were contacted by the FAA, it was to extend the temporary funding through June 15.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Wednesday assured lawmakers that the Obama administration will prevent the closure of 149 small airport towers across the country — including the one at Manhattan — as well as end furloughs of air traffic controllers. He said that action is in response to legislation passed last week giving the administration, and FAA, the ability to shift funds from other programs to cover the $253 million needed to keep the towers and air controllers in operation through the end of the fiscal year.

The FAA sent out a press release on April 27 stating that all air traffic controller furloughs would be “suspended” and “the system will resume normal operations by Sunday evening.”

Earlier this week, Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., circulated among legislators a letter to LaHood reiterating that the legislation was passed in order to keep the towers open and bring an end to the furloughs, according to the Associated Press.

Moran and Blumenthal are also the authors of a bill that would fund the towers and controllers through 2014 and bar the Department of Transportation, and the FAA, which is part of DOT, from cutting funding. Moran said last week that while the bill has overwhelming support in the Senate, he does not think the bill will be put to a vote on the floor because the Majority Leader will not allow it.

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