Glacier Airport Control Tower to Close in April

By Beacon Staff

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that Glacier Park International Airport’s control tower is one of 149 across the county that will close in April due to automatic federal budget cuts.

Closures begin on April 7 and, according to airport director Cindi Martin, travelers should expect delays. Last month, she said if the tower closed, Glacier Park International Airport would revert to uncontrolled airspace, but planes would still be able to fly. The control tower there opened in 2001.

“We’re not thrilled about this, but it won’t shut us down,” Martin told the Beacon last month. “What it will do is slow down the system.”

Pilots will now have to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves on a shared radio channel.

In February, the FAA proposed to close 189 contract air traffic control towers, including Glacier Park International Airport and Helena Regional Airport, to meet the $637 million in cuts triggered by sequestration. On Friday, the FAA announced the Helena airport tower would stay open due to “national interest,” including security and economic issues.

“We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press release. “Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration.”

In February, the FAA announced it was considering furloughing many of its 47,000 employees to reduce expenditures.

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