Just as the federal sequester was to take affect in the air and on the ground, the FAA announced Friday it was delaying the shutdown of airport control towers across the country.
Three airports in West Virginia are losing their towers according to the FAA list released last month: the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport, the Greenbrier County Airport and the Mid-Ohio Valley Airport.
MOV airport manager Terry Moore said his Parkersburg facility hasn’t given up on keeping its tower. “We’re planning for the worst but hoping for the best.”
Moore said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin met with the FAA recently to plan how the tower closure at MOV would work. The FAA gave Manchin assurance the agency will work with the airport to transition the equipment needed to run the facility — like control of landing lights, alarms and sirens and a frequency to contact planes — are in place so that flights can continue after the June 15 tower closure.
Moore said there is a chance MOV will be able to keep its tower up and running even after the FAA pulls out in June. He’s been working on a plan where the airport would fund the tower operations through Oct. 1. At a cost of about $150,000, the airport would outsource air-traffic control to an independent company that would staff the tower for six months.
Once the new national budget takes effect Oct. 1, Moore said some airports could get their towers back. But he warned it’s critical the MOV tower stays open in the meantime.
“Once the utilities are shut off in that tower, it’s going to become a derelict building,” Moore said. “The chances of reopening that derelict building, I believe, are very, very small.”
Moore said he has yet to run the plan by the Airport Authority but he is hopeful the panel will be supportive.
“Time is short but we have a little ray of hope now,” he said.