Concord airport tower closing due to federal budget cuts
CONCORD – City officials say they’ve been notified the control tower at Concord Regional Airport will be forced to close due to federal budget cuts that took effect last week.
The Federal Aviation Administration has sent word to more than 170 airports across the nation that it will cease funding April 7 for towers that use contract employees, published reports say.
Also among those airports is Smith-Reynolds in Forsyth County, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
Concord officials said in a press release they’re not surprised by the funding cuts, but the news “is still unsettling in its potential impact” on the airport, part of the 10th-busiest airspace in the country.
The economic impact could be significant, the city said.
In 2012, according to the news release, Concord Regional had a total of 59,811 operations (landings and take-offs) with 3,959 of those being commercial operations. The most recent statistics from 2011 show those commercial flights had 10,961 passengers boarding.
The city said there is a “high probability” of losing all 737 charter flights, almost all of which involve NASCAR race teams.
In addition some tenants, including major race teams, have operating restrictions that only allow them to use tower controlled airports and others may take their business elsewhere when they lose the service provided by a tower, the city said.
“Many businesses have indicated they located in our community due to our airport, part of which is the air traffic control tower service,” the news release said. “Safety is always the number one priority but an airport without a tower has an obviously different safety environment as one with a tower.”
With or without a tower, the airport will stay open, the city said. Currently, options are being considered to keep the tower open on a short-term basis without FAA support, with long range alternatives being considered.
“As a city, we are reaching out to our customers and local partners for support in our conversations with federal elected officials,” the city said. “It is our belief the proposed action to end our contract tower program will have a broad impact on jobs and our local economy if customers are lost.”