WV lawmakers applaud the FAA decision to keep 149 contract tower - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV lawmakers applaud the FAA decision to keep 149 contract towers open

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West Virginia's congressional delegation issued statements late May 10 after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would keep 149 contract towers open.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sent a letter to members of congress saying the FAA could meet its budget cuts under the sequester law without closing 149 air traffic towers next month at smaller airfields handled by contract controllers.

The sequester had caused a period of uncertainty about those plans.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said in a news release the announcement was great news for the state and for the First Congressional District, which he represents.

"When it was announced the closure of these air traffic control towers would take place in June, it was nothing more than political maneuvering and posturing," McKinley said in the news release. "This had nothing to do with wasteful spending and duplicity in government.

"This decision by the FAA proves political decisions can have a devastating effect on communities like Wheeling and Parkersburg by putting Americans at risk to make a political point."

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who is the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's top Democrat, also issued a statement.

"The FAA's decision to continue contract tower operations is on the glide path Congress intended when we gave the agency flexibility to keep our skies safer with contract tower operations," Rahall said in a news release. "It is up to Congress now to taxi our budgetary problems up to the gate safely and aligned with the needs of the American people, lest we face this same problem in the next fiscal year."

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said in a statement he was glad the Department of Transportation used its authority to keep the contract towers open.

"This decision means that airports in many communities – including four in West Virginia – will continue to have access to critical air traffic control services," Rockefeller said in a news release. "While this is good news for the travelling public, it is only a temporary fix.

"We will face the same dire consequences in October if House Republicans do not work with the Senate and the President to forge a balanced compromise to replace the sequester."

And Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., issued a statement saying President Barack Obama's administration has had flexibility to keep contract towers open from the time sequestration took effect, but the administration mismanaged the situation to play political games.

"I was proud to work with my colleagues in passing the bipartisan ‘Reducing Flight Delays Act,' which passed in the House by a vote of 361 to 41 and in the Senate unanimously," Capito said in a news release. "This overwhelming display of unity finally shamed the President into acting in the best interests of safety and efficiency for air travelers in West Virginia, and in other communities across the country."