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May 10. 2013 9:33PM

Nashua Airport control tower will stay open

NASHUA - After months of battling to keep the Nashua Airport control tower open, airport, city and state officials are breathing a sigh of relief after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would not close Nashua's control tower along with 148 other towers across the country.

Airport Authority Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Davidson said that the news took a huge weight off of everyone's shoulders that have been working to keep the tower open, and especially for the seven air traffic controllers who were slated to lose their jobs if the sequestration cuts forced the FAA to close the towers.

"We are delighted that this long battle for safety and common sense has been successful and is finally over and our tower will continue to operate," Davidson said.

The tower was first granted a reprieve the night before it was slated to close in April as the FAA announced it needed extra time to handle multiple legal challenges filed by airports stemming from the closures.

Then, as FAA worker furloughs began to slow flights, Congress recently passed funding to end the furloughs and keep the towers open.

"Of course Congress only passed something after it affected them," Davidson said at the time.

However, while enough funding was passed to keep the towers open, the FAA was still not required to do so, leaving some uncertainty surrounding the status of the towers.

"Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that DOT has determined that the recently enacted Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 will allow the FAA to transfer sufficient funds to end employee furloughs and keep the 149 low activity contract towers originally slated for closure in June, open for the remainder of fiscal year 2013," FAA Chief Operating Officer J. David Grizzle wrote in a letter to the Airport Authority.

If the tower had indeed closed, Davidson said that the authority had raised enough money to keep the tower open for at least a month.

But at a cost of $34,000, Davidson said, he is not sure how long that would have lasted.

To help keep the tower open, all four members of New Hampshire's delegation had written letters or worked to create legislation that would keep the towers open.

Throughout the entire process, Davidson lauded the delegation's work and concern toward the issue.

"It's good news about the towers. We are fortunate to have a group of folks that can quickly come together and work well together and in the end that is what saved the day. It's a relief, especially after the large investment, and we didn't want to see a problem with safety," Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said.

Proponents of keeping the tower open have long pointed to the fact that the federal government just finished spending more than $20 million on a runway extension designed to make the airport safer and bring in more corporate jets, and closing the tower would make that investment worthless.

Additionally, Davidson said that closing the tower would have made the airport much less safe considering the amount of air traffic it handles each year.



bklein@newstote.com


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