Officials: Airport will not close even if tower does

Any potential closing of Williamsport Regional Airport’s air traffic control tower will not affect overall airport operations, according to officials who said confusion is swirling because the airport’s tower was included on a Federal Aviation Administration list of planned closures.

The list, which includes towers at six other airports in the state, is in response to mandatory federal budget cuts under the so-called sequester.

Dave Frey, airport marketing director, said Wednesday that the facility remains open and will continue to service daily US Airways flights.

He said airport administration has received numerous calls asking about the status of the airport since news of the tower’s potential closing was released last week.

Meanwhile, the Williamsport Regional Airport Authority is appealing the FAA’s decision to include the local airport on the list, Frey said.

That appeal was due Wednesday, Frey said.

After that, “it’s a waiting game,” he said. “There was no time frame on when appeals would be heard or rejected.”

Frey said the airport has “broad support” from county commissioners, state and federal legislators to keep its air traffic control tower open.

If the FAA does close the local tower, its decision may take effect on April 1 or shortly thereafter. Even so, airport officials said they are prepared to use “advisory” controllers in place of furloughed contract employees.

“Flight operations will continue in a safe and efficient manner under other air traffic control plans,” Thomas J. Hart, airport authority executive director, said in a news release. “There are other options. We have contingency plans in place in the event our appeal is not supported. In any regard, we will not close operations or airline service.”

Mark Murawski, authority chairman and county transportation planner, previously said that the local tower should not be closed by the government because of the area’s unique mountainous geography and weather conditions.