Midway Airport gets reprieve from overnight tower closures
By Jon Hilkevitch
Midway Airport has received a reprieve from possible overnight closures of its air-traffic control tower, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski said Tuesday.
The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to announce on Wednesday that 72 airports, including Midway, that were on an FAA list to potentially furlough all controllers working the midnight shift, as part of the sequestration budget cuts, will instead remain open for at least the rest of the current fiscal year, Lipinski said.
“The overnight closures are now off the table,’’ Lipinski said. “This is great news for Midway Airport, Southwest Airlines and anyone planning on flying out of Midway. Midway should never have been put on the list in the first place, and we still will need to fight for Midway in the new fiscal year starting October 1.’’
The congressman, who is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, had pressed the FAA for months to drop plans to close Midway’s control tower during the overnight hours. No specific date had been set for the midnight closures, the FAA previously said.
Midway is among the 30 busiest airports in the U.S. It serves about 19 million passengers and handles more than 250,000 flights annually, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
Uncertainty remains over the status of 149 control towers that are operated for the FAA by private contractors at smaller airports.
The 149 airport towers threatened with closure include the tower at Gary/Chicago International Airport and at the airports in Waukegan, Decatur, Bloomington-Normal, Carbondale-Murphysboro in southern Illinois, Alton near St. Louis and Kenosha just across the state border in Wisconsin.
The FAA began to furlough controllers at major commercial airports April 21. It caused more than 40,000 flight delays, especially at East Coast airports. Five days later, under congressional pressure, the furloughs were suspended.
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