FAA Officially Closes St. Cloud Air Traffic Control Tower
ST. CLOUD - The St. Cloud Regional Airport got the official word today (Friday) from the Federal Aviation Administration. The air traffic control tower will be closing, due to the federal sequestration.
St. Cloud's air traffic control tower is one of two in the state to get the news today, the other is the Anoka County-Blaine Airport. There are 149 control towers total across the country that the FAA will begin phasing out on April 7th.
Initially there were as many as 189 control towers on the chopping block, but the FAA has determined that 24 of them will remain open because they say, "closing them would have a negative impact on the national interest". Sixteen other towers will remain open for now through a federal "cost share" program.
All of the affected airports will remain open. Pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency with no help from ground controllers. That's something they are trained to do, but airport directors have raised concerns about the potential impact on safety. Two Minnesota airports that were on the preliminary list of possible tower closings were spared. They are Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie and the Crystal Airport.
In an accompanying statement, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says the agency will take steps to ensure safe operations at the affected airports.
St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis and Airport Director Bill Towle say, despite losing the air traffic controllers, Allegiant Airlines will continue to run their regular flights. And they will continue to pursue regular daily air service between St. Cloud and Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Towle says five jobs will be lost when the tower at his airport closes April 7. He says the airport "is certainly not going to be as safe" without the tower.