UPDATE: TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - The Tyler Pounds Regional Airport Air Traffic Control Tower will be among the 149 to be closed starting April 7, according to a Federal Aviation Administration news release.
The FAA reached the decision to close these contract towers as part of its sequestration implementation plan, according to the news release.
The City of Tyler is having a news conference about the issue at 3 p.m.
Tyler Pounds Regional Airport Manager Davis Dickson said in February that if closures took place, Tyler's air traffic control would be less likely to go because it provides for commercial air service in addition to private aviation.
But March 5, city officials learned that the Tyler airport's air traffic control tower has been slated for possible closure. In a March 8 letter addressed to the Federal Aviation Administration, Dickson said "closing the control tower in Tyler could jeopardize the safety, security and efficiency of our airport and could mean the loss of jobs in our entire region."
In an attached report to the FAA, Dickson said Tyler Pounds is the largest airport in the East Texas region and is responsible for processing between 150,000 to 200,000 commercial passengers each year.
The airport serves as a diversionary stop for airline traffic when there is bad weather in Houston or Dallas, and air ambulances for both Mother Frances Hospital and East Texas Regional Medical Center use Tyler Pounds when transporting patients, the report from Dickson stated. A portion of the helicopter fleet from both hospitals is housed at the airport, the report stated.
The report also stated that the "capital expenditures from 2006 to 2010 (at the airport) generated $22.5 million in economic activity that created 209 job years of economic activity." A job year equals one job lasting one year, the report stated.
If the FAA decided to reduce or suspend air traffic control operations at Tyler Pounds, the airport has procedures in place to continue operating, Dickson said in February.
These procedures include using Fort Worth or Shreveport, La., for approach control services and shifting to UNICOM, a system that allows air traffic on the ground to communicate with air traffic in the air.
Air traffic already uses UNICOM when the control tower is closed between 9:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. However, he said, air traffic control is much more efficient.
All air traffic control employees at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport are employed by RVA, a contractor for the FAA, Dickson said. Dickson, who has been the airport manager for almost 19 years, said in February that he has never seen a suspension of air traffic control service.
Washington (CNN) -- The FAA on Friday announced it will close 149 regional airport control towers because of forced spending cuts -- sparing 40 others that the FAA had been expected to shutter.
A four-week, phased closure of the 149 control towers will begin on April 7, the FAA said.
The FAA had been expected to announce the closure of 189 low- or moderate-volume towers staffed by contractors. Before Friday's announcement, it said it would consider keeping a tower open if the airport convinces the agency it is in the "national interest" to do so.
By congressional mandate, the FAA must cut nearly $600 million from its nearly $48 billion budget this fiscal year. Because the majority of its 47,000 employees are air traffic controllers, it is impossible to cut its budget without affecting controllers, the agency says.
Although Longview Regional Airport control tower was on the list of potential closures it was not included in the list of 149 control towers to be phased out beginning April 7.
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