U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler is working to protect air traffic control towers, like the one at Columbia Regional Airport.
We reported to you last spring that the Federal Aviation Administration proposed closing more than 100 contract towers, including the tower in Columbia.
However, that never actually happened, as the FAA found the funds to keep the towers open.
Friday- Hartzler released a letter asking the FAA to ensure funding for all contract air traffic control towers permanently.
She says the Department of Transportation has yet to provide evidence that the closure would not compromise the safety of flyers.
Hartzler says she sent the letter to the administration as a preventative measure.
“I feel confident if we get the specific language in there just to make sure they never play games again and try to shuffle funds around, avert the traveling public. So- we want to make sure they know it’s a priority for us and it should be for them, too,” said Hartzler.
Hartzler says this is a safety issue, but it is also a financial issue.
She says contacted towers like Columbia’s are actually cheaper.
“It’s important to the traveling public to have this entity, but it’s also a good use for our tax dollars because the average control tower that’s done like Columbia’s on a contract base only costs about $537,000 a year to run, compared to an FAA tower which costs over 2 million to run,” said Hartzler.
Hartzler also worries if the tower closes in the future, the airport’s business would suffer.
“This provides a lot of important jobs here, but most importantly there are thousands of people that fly in and out of Columbia every day. We don’t want to jeopardize that by having the FAA close these towers and move their money to other places in the country,” said Hartzler.
If the Columbia tower were to ever be closed, the closest operating tower would be in Springfield.