Air traffic control tower to close

WILLIAMSTOWN – The air traffic control tower at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport has been chosen to be closed with 148 others across the country to save federal funds.

“Obviously we are disappointed by this news,” said Wood County Airport Authority president Bill Richardson. “However, our airport must continue to operate efficiently without the tower.

“We will do whatever is necessary to continue our outstanding record in regards to the safety of our flying public,” he said.

Airport manager Terry Moore was not available for comment on Friday, but earlier in the month said he expected the tower to be closed.

“I don’t think the towers listed are under consideration for closure,” he said at the time. “I think it is a list of towers to be closed.”

In late February, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a list of 200 smaller air traffic control towers under consideration for closure. At the time, LaHood said 100 of these towers would be closed. On Friday 149 towers were selected for closure.

“It’s a shame Congress can’t sort this type of issue out,” said Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch. “The tower is a super-nice feature the government has offered people flying into and out of our airport that will no longer be there.”

Tower operations allow pilots to know where other aircraft are in the air and on the ground and where it is safe to go. Losing that safety is the main concern.

“Without a controller in the tower, all pilots using the airport will need to be more attentive,” Couch said. “Certainly many airports around the country function without a tower; it just means pilots that fly into these airports will have to be more aware of what is going on around them.”

Locally, many larger airplanes from Andrews Air Force Base use the aid of local tower employees doing touch-and-go landings at the airport. Moore said the airport uses the fact it has a tower to campaign to get military aircraft to do touch-and-goes at the facility.

Those flights will likely end when the tower operations close.

Moore said the tower’s employees are provided by the Federal Aviation Administration through a contract with a company in Missouri to provide qualified employees to the tower.

The towers will close April 7, as part of $85 billion in federal spending cuts across the government. The closures are part of $637 million the FAA must cut by Sept. 30.