GRANTS PASS — Five small airports in Oregon are on the Federal Aviation Administration list for potential control tower closings under the automatic budget cuts that took effect March 1.
The FAA says they are among 238 small airports under consideration nationwide with low traffic volumes and control towers operated by contractors.
The FAA is to make a decision by March 18 on closing about 170 of them. A letter to airport managers from FAA officials said the decision would be based solely on the national interest, and will not take into account local community impacts. Even without sequestration, some towers may have to close, the letter added.
The Oregon airports are in Klamath Falls, North Bend, Pendleton, Salem and Troutdale. If the towers close, the FAA says the airports will remain open. But pilots would be responsible for their own safety by talking to each other, instead of the tower.
Most of the airports will be arguing that they should retain their towers because they serve Air National Guard aircraft in addition to private and commercial flights.
Klamath Falls Airport Director John Longley said he hoped to keep their tower open because commercial and private planes share the single runway with high-performance Oregon Air National Guard F-15C fighter jets based at Kingsley Field. The tower is operated by military and civilian personnel in the 270th Air Traffic Control squadron. "Forty-five percent of all our operations are military aircraft," Longley said. "We are this sort of unique creature, a military-civilian airfield."