The Daily Mash-Up

Saturday, September 05, 2015 This Week's Paper
FAA to close contract control tower at Tacoma Narrows Airport

The Federal Aviation Administration’s contract control tower at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor will close this spring as the FAA implements the budget sequestration.

On March 22, the FAA notified Pierce County, which operates the airport, that the tower is one of 149 contract towers that will close around the country. The FAA will begin a four-week phased closure of the towers on April 7. The date of the Tacoma Narrows Airport tower closure has not yet been announced.

“It is unfortunate that this valuable service will no longer be available to our customers,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “We had hoped for a different outcome. We will continue to provide information to the community about the closure as we receive it.”

The FAA announced its proposal to close 189 contract towers in early March, and asked for information on whether closing any of the towers would adversely affect national interest.

“Pierce County submitted a letter to the FAA stating the importance of the Tacoma Narrows Airport contract control tower for both national security and economic development,” said Deb Wallace, airport and ferry administrator for Pierce County Public Works and Utilities. “The airport has a diverse mix of military and civilian traffic, as it supports Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s aviation units and their flight training requirements, and is home to business jets and recreational aircraft. The tower provides an additional layer of safety in keeping this traffic separated, and is able to do so more efficiently than individual pilots are able to do on their own.”

Tacoma Narrows Airport will remain open after the FAA contract tower closes.

Instead of having tower controllers directing air traffic, pilots will use well-defined procedures applicable at all airports without an operating control tower. These standard procedures are already in use between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. at the Tacoma Narrows Airport, and 24 hours a day at Pierce County Airport-Thun Field, which is also operated by Pierce County and has never had a control tower.

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