CHICAGO - The Federal Aviation Administration says it will close 149 air traffic control towers at small airports around the country because of federal budget cuts.
The agency announced the decision Friday, a month after it released a preliminary list of facilities that could be closed.
Two of the affected air traffic control towers are in Minnesota. The Anoka County-Blaine Airport (Janes Field) in Minneapolis and St. Cloud Regional Airport tower will be closed.
In Wisconsin the Central Wisconsin tower in Mosinee, Chippewa Valley Regional airport tower in Eau Claire and the Kenosha Regional Airport tower will be closed.
All of the affected airports will remain open. Pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency with no help from ground controllers. That's something they are trained to do, but airport directors have raised concerns about the potential impact on safety.
In an accompanying statement, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says the agency will take steps to ensure safe operations at the affected airports.
The U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA), an affiliate of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), brought up safety concerns in a press release.
USCTA Executive Director J. Spencer Dickerson states, "Given the breadth and scope of the closures, the FAA cannot possibly fully understand the safety impacts, the operational impacts or the immediate and long-term economic hardships this decision will have on affected airports and communities. While we understand and appreciate the challenges associated with implementing budget cuts resulting from sequestration, the decision by the Administration to disproportionately target the contract tower program represents a regrettable deviation from the role the FAA has always played as a guardian of aviation system safety."
The Federal Aviation Administration says it will close 149 air traffic control towers at small airports around the country because of federal budget cuts.