The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced it will delay the closing of 149 air traffic control towers until mid-June.
In March, the FAA announced it would close the 149 federal contract air traffic control towers as part of the agency’s $637 million budget cuts as required by sequestration.
The FAA changed the closure schedule to “allow the agency to attempt to resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions” and to allow some 50 airports more time to assume funding of the towers themselves.
Peter Kirsch, a lawyer representing the affected airports, told USA Today that they are seeking a court order to block the closures and expect a ruling by April 12.
“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood 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.”
In March, the FAA announced that it would stop federal funding for 149 towers and a phased, four-week closure process was scheduled to begin April 7. That phased closure process is now cancelled. Instead, the FAA will stop funding all 149 towers on June 15 and will close the facilities unless the airports decide to continue operations as a nonfederal contract tower.