LAKELAND, FL (March 22, 2013) — Lakeland Linder Regional Airport is on the list of 149 federal contract air traffic control towers that are scheduled to have federal funding phased out starting April 7, 2013 as part of the federal budget sequestration.
Gene Conrad, Director of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport said, “We are very disappointed in the FAA’s decision to discontinue funding for the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport federal contract tower. Safety is paramount and our operations continue to increase. We are exploring options to maintain air traffic control services at Lakeland Airport.”
“We did receive confirmation today that the FAA will be sending a full contingent of air traffic controllers to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport to operate the air traffic control tower during the annual Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo April 9 – 14th,” said Conrad. “This is a reimbursable agreement with the FAA and the Sun ‘n Fun Board unanimously agreed to stand behind the financial commitment. We are currently working with our state and local stakeholders to help cover those costs.”
In March, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed to close 189 contract air traffic control towers as part of its plan to meet the $637 million in cuts required under budget sequestration and announced that it would consider keeping open any of these towers if doing so would be in the national interest.
The national interest considerations included:
· Significant threats to national security as determined by the FAA in consultation with the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security;
· Significant, adverse economic impact that is beyond the impact on a local community;
· Significant impact on multi-state transportation, communication or banking/financial networks;
· The extent to which an airport currently served by a contract tower is a critical diversionary airport to a large hub.
The Federal Department of Transportation consulted with the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and conducted operational assessments of each potential tower closure on the national air transportation system. As a result, 24 federal contract towers will remain open because closing them would have a negative impact on the national interest. The FAA will begin a four-week phased out budget process that will affect 149 federal contract towers beginning on April 7th and Lakeland Linder Regional Airport is on that list.