FAA to cut funding for Georgetown Municipal Airport control tower

The Georgetown Municipal Airport is one of 149 airports throughout the nation losing federal funding for its contracted air traffic control tower.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which contracts the staff in the air traffic control tower, announced its decision March 22.

"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 news release. "Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration."

The air traffic control tower could close April 7, but Georgetown Airport Manager Sarah Hinton said airport staff is preparing to present options to City Council, including maintaining the current level of staff or reducing staff and hours of operation, to the City Council at its regular meeting March 26.

"I have to prepare all the way from contract services running the tower, the city running the tower all the way down to closure," she said. "I have to figure out what all my options are, and what else I need to put in place as far as we need a few different radios and some emergency procedures we need to change."

According to city documents, "the cost of the contact is believed to exceed $400,000 per year to keep the tower open 14 hours a day, 7 days per week."

Georgetown's air traffic control tower opened in 2007. Prior to that, the airport saw at least one midair collision. One of the two pilots involved in the incident was severely injured, however, both made full recoveries.

"Safety is the number one thing," Hinton said, adding that if the tower is closed, the airport would revert to operating as a non-towered airport.

The airport averages 186 operations—takeoffs and landings—per day, according to airport staff. Activity is highest on Saturdays, said Keith Hutchinson, communications manager for the City of Georgetown, with more than 400 operations.

"We don't have any other dedicated revenue and neither does the state," Hutchinson said.

The airport is one of 13 in the state that will lose FAA funding, including nearby San Marcos Municipal Airport, Easterwood Field in College Station and the Texas State Technical College Waco airport.

Details on the FAA control tower closure list are available at www.faa.gov.

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