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FAA: Seven Southern California air traffic control towers to close

March 22, 2013|By Laura J. Nelson
  • The contract tower at Riverside Municipal Airport is one of those that will close April 7, the FAA announced.
The contract tower at Riverside Municipal Airport is one of those that will… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Seven air-traffic control towers in Southern California will close next month as a result of forced federal budget cuts, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday.

The FAA had been considering closing as many as 189 air-traffic control towers at smaller airports across the nation, including 14 in Southern California. The FAA must cut $637 million by Sept. 30 as part of $85 billion in cuts across the federal government.

Southern California will lose towers in Fullerton, Oxnard, Riverside, San Diego, Victorville, Pacoima and Lancaster.

All the towers that will shut down April 7 are contract towers, which are certified by the FAA but not run by the government. Contract towers make up nearly half of the nation's towers and handle about 30% of the air traffic.

"These were very tough decisions," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make."

This is the largest contract tower closure in history. Since the program's start in 1982, only three towers have been closed, according to the U.S. Contract Tower Assn.

"The decision by the administration to disproportionately target the contract tower program represents a regrettable deviation from the role the FAA has always played as a guardian of aviation system safety," said Spencer Dickerson, the association's executive director, in a statement.

The FAA warned airports in early March that their towers could close. Many appealed. The FAA said it weighed whether losing each tower would be a threat to national security; harm more than just the local economy; hurt interstate transportation, communication or banking; or hinder air traffic at larger airports nearby.

Across California, 11 towers will close.

Two Southern California contract towers were spared from this round of cuts: Hawthorne Municipal Airport and a joint facility in Palmdale that houses the regional airport and a U.S. Air Force construction plant.

The FAA is also expected to close as many as 43 towers where FAA employees work. In Southern California, that could include towers in Camarillo, El Monte, La Verne and Santa Monica.


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