Despite deal in Washington, Control Tower future still uncertain - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Despite deal in Washington, Control Tower future still uncertain

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HICKORY, NC (WBTV) -

A deal in Washington that allowed the FAA to shift funds and ease the troubles of travelers at major airports did not include specific provisions for control towers at smaller airports.

Instead, the towers that were slated to close before the deal was reached may still shut down. "We don't know what is going to happen," said Tower Manager Lezli Kolcun on Monday. "We have no official word from anyone yet about what will happen."

The tower was first slated to be closed April first. Then the date was pushed back to the 15th, and then to June 15th.   "It's very frustrating," said Controller Jeff Forman. He and Kolcun and most of those at the 149 towers the FAA has threatened to close work for a private contractor, not the government.

Their company is contracted to handle the tower services and though they might not be FAA employees, "The FAA still pays out salary and that's what the issue is," said Forman.  A call from Congressman Patrick McHenry's office to the tower on Monday did little to clear up what will happen. "They told us that the towers were not specifically mentioned in the bill so it will be up to the FAA's discretion whether we get saved or not," said Kolcun.

Most pilots in Hickory favor keeping the tower manned. More than 35,000 takeoffs and landings were reported in 2012 and officials say the numbers appear to be increasing. "It very much positively affects safety," said pilot Bradley Bormuth. The tower handles traffic on the ground and in the immediate airspace. With the busy Charlotte airspace close by, pilots say it is important to keep the towers in both Hickory and Concord. 

Officials do not know when the FAA will make a decision. "I will just plan for this place shutting down on June 15th, like they told us," said Kolcun.

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