Provo Airport tower remains open after sequester scare

Provo Airport's control tower is safe for now after a scare that a federal sequestration would require it to shut down. (Photo by Chris Bunker)
Provo Airport’s control tower is safe for now after a scare that a federal sequestration would require it to shut down. (Photo by Chris Bunker)

The Provo Airport’s control tower will remain open, despite previous scares and rumors of its closing.

On March 22, the Federal Aviation Administration announced a list of 149 air-traffic control towers throughout the country that would stop receiving federal funding due to the government sequestration. Towers for the Provo and Ogden airports were included on the list and scheduled for closure by the end of April.

But the federal sequester, in Provo’s case, became a bark with no bite. Not only did the FAA delayed the closures until June 15, but the control towers are now fully funded until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, with no prospects threatening next year’s funding.

“It was cause for great rejoicing,” Provo councilman Hal Miller said. “The city has not received official word about funding for next year but fully expects to receive it.”

Those involved, like Provo Airport manager Steve Gleason, are happy to put Washington politics behind them.

“I don’t like to make assumptions,” Gleason said. “But it sure seems like both parties were trying to play chicken with each other. I’m just glad they came to their senses.”

Gleason, along with many others, was frustrated by transportation secretary Ray LaHood’s initial decision to deal with the $647 million budget cut by closing control towers nationwide. Controllers are essential to the safety of pilots and their passengers taking off and landing, and, according to Gleason, constitute one of the most efficient programs that the FAA funds.

“Basically, it was a very confusing time,” airport controller Chris DeLange said. “All the info trickling down from the FAA was really broad. The ifs and whens of when we would close were all very vague.”

Along with his duties as a controller, DeLange also works as a liaison between the airport and his employer, Serco North America. Serco relies exclusively on FAA funding to contract with all of the small-airport controllers it supplies throughout the country.

“It was a real eye-opener for me,” DeLange said. “It was kind of a reality check for all of us in this career that we’ve always thought was stable.”

DeLange, an Orem native, has been working at the Provo Airport for eight years.

“It’s good that we’re back to the status quo,” DeLange said.

Approximately 80,000 flights go in and out of Provo every year.

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