Fate of air traffic control tower in North Myrtle Beach still uncertain

dbryant@thesunnews.comMay 3, 2013 

— The fate of the air traffic control tower at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach is still uncertain.

Congress approved legislation a week ago to end furloughs for Federal Aviation Administration workers after they caused hundreds of flight delays. The FAA says it is still reviewing the legislation to see if the federal contract towers set to close June 15, including the one at Grand Strand Airport, can stay open.

Congress took quick action after hundreds of flights delays were reported last week because of the FAA furloughs, which were part of the agency’s cuts because of sequestration. Closing 149 air traffic control towers is part of the agency’s plan to cut the required $637 million under sequestration.

As of mid-day Friday, the Grand Strand Airport control tower still didn’t know whether it would be able to stay open.

The runway at Grand Strand Airport logs 50,000 landings and takeoffs a year. The airport is a hub for private pilots, corporate jets, banner planes, helicopter tours and a sky diving business and also serves as a refueling spot for military aircraft used by the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.

Without the control tower, pilots would use a frequency to announce their landings and takeoffs to others flying in the area.

The FAA didn’t know when it would announce the fate of the control towers.

The tower at Grand Strand Airport originally had been set to close May 5, but the FAA in April extended the closure dates for all the towers until June 15, saying it needed the extra time to attempt to resolve some legal challenges to the closures.

“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in an April news 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.”

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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