The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday it won’t eliminate midnight shifts at air-traffic controllers at medium-sized airports, as part of a recent congressional spending compromise.
The FAA announced April 27 that it was eliminating furloughs for controllers nationwide, after a week of thousands of extra flight delays prompted Congress to act the day before.
Ending midnight shifts had threatened to slow down late-night flights, when cargo tends to get shipped. The FAA considered ending shifts at 72 control facilities, including Chicago’s Midway and Reno.
The FAA issued a statement Wednesday that said the agency “has decided not to pursue the elimination of midnight shifts at FAA towers at this time.”
Greg Principato, president of Airports Council International-North America, a trade group representing airports, applauded FAA for ending the threat to midnight shifts for the current fiscal year.
But eliminating furloughs and keeping midnight shifts doesn’t answer the question of whether FAA will shut down 149 towers at small airports nationwide.
The FAA planned all three cost-saving efforts to cut $637 million from its spending through Sept. 30, as part of $85 billion in cuts across the government.
But amid the outcry over flight delays, Congress agreed to let FAA shift $253 million from an airport construction program. Congress still needs to approve a permanent spending fix or flight delays could resume Oct. 1.
The $253 million covers enough to keep small towers open, but FAA hasn’t announced yet whether it will. The towers are scheduled to close June 15.
The Alliance for Aviation Across America, an advocacy group for small airports, announced Thursday that mayors and community leaders from 70 cities had written to the FAA urging the towers to remain open.
Chris Oswald, vice president for safety and regulatory affairs at ACI-NA, said Wednesday that his group’s “understanding is that FAA is still considering whether to keep contact towers open.”