Chennault air control tower to remain open, Lake Charles also safe for now

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Chennault International Airport's air traffic control tower will remain open, according to a Friday announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration.

No decision has been made on Lake Charles Regional Airport's tower, however.

Heath Allen, executive director of the Lake Charles Regional Airport, told KPLC that the FAA's latest announcement concerns contract towers only. Allen said Lake Charles is an FAA tower and cuts could still come.

"They just haven't gotten that far in their resources," he said.

Chennault Executive Director Randy Robb said that normal tower operations at the airport will continue without interruption.

"We're pleased by the decision because Chennault handles a tremendous volume of military and civilian aircraft that otherwise would have been unable to land at an uncontrolled tower," Robb said.

Around the country, 149 towers will close April 7. Federal sequestration has cut $600 million to the FAA.

The FAA determined that 24 towers previously listed for closure will remain open because of national security concerns. Additionally, the FAA determined that 16 contract towers in the agency's cost-share program will remain open until Sept. 30.

The Shreveport Downtown air traffic control tower is on the closure list, the only one in Louisiana.

Robb said that Chennault received strong Congressional support as well as constant aviation industry support for maintaining the air traffic tower's operational functions into the future.

"We look forward to continuing the partnership that we developed with the airport customers and with our contract tower operators," Robb said.

The sequestration cuts targeted towers run by contractors at small- and mid-sized airports.

The Chennault tower's threatened shutdown had been singled out on the Feb. 24 edition of NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" as a potential real-life consequence of sequestration.

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