Bill to End FAA Furloughs, Doesn't Affect Dothan Airport Control Tower

A United Airlines jet departs in view of the air traffic control tower at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Tuesday, April 23, 2013, in Seattle. A day after flight delays plagued much of the U.S., air travel is smoother Tuesday. But the government is warning passengers that the situation can change by the hour as it runs the nation's air traffic control system with a smaller staff. Airlines and members of Congress urged the Federal Aviation Administration to find other ways to make mandatory budget cuts besides furloughing controllers. While delays haven't been terrible yet, the airlines are worried about the long-term impact late flights will have on their budgets and on fliers. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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The FAA's decision to close Dothan's airport control tower still stands but airport officials and city leaders say, that's o-k.

"I believe that it's FAA's responsibility for flight safety and to pay for it but at this point we need to be prepared that the tower will close June 15th and we're ready for that and we will keep it open," said Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz.

"That plan is in place and the tower will be open on June 16th," said Dothan Airport Administrator Art Morris.

Friday the house passed a bill that will free up enough funds to stop furloughs of more than 47,000 Federal Aviation Employees, including 15,000 air traffic controllers.

It allows the department of transportation to divert $253 million from a grant program that pays for runway repairs.
That money will fund salaries and other personnel expenses.

Besides tower concerns, Morris says renovations to the Commercial Jet property are coming along.

"Renovations are going well they seem to be ahead of schedule," said Morris,"you can see them out there cleaning the exterior of the hangers preparing them to be painted."

Officials say Commercial Jet is expected to move in and bring in their first airplane, in June.

Airport officials say the only part left to square away with the tower is deciding on whether they will get a private contractor to keep-up with equipment maintenance or pay the FAA to continue to maintain it.

The bill passed with a 361-41 vote less than 24 hours after the senate unanimously passed a similar measure.

Reports say at least 863 flights were delayed Wednesday as a result of furloughs.

The bill also contains language permitting Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to restore the FAA contract towers that were cut as part of the effort to reduce controller furloughs. An effort mandate funding for contract towers was rejected in the Senate last night.

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