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Gary airport control tower to shut down; Allegiant will still fly there

Updated: April 24, 2013 6:11AM



GARY — Gary/Chicago International Airport’s air traffic control tower did not win a reprieve from the federal government and is expected to shut down in the next six weeks.

“(I’m) extremely disappointed,” Interim Airport Director Steve Landry said.

Landry received an email Friday afternoon from the Federal Aviation Administration that did not include the Gary airport as one of the 24 contract air traffic control towers that would stay open. Another 16 towers that already had cost-share agreements with the federal government will also be allowed to stay open.

That means the towers at Gary and another 148 airports with contract air traffic control towers will see their towers shut down, unless each airport comes up with its own contract.

The closures will not force the shutdown of any of the airports, but pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency with no help from ground controllers. In Gary, planes already take off and land without control tower assistance from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The only other tower in Indiana slated to close will be the one in Columbus. The closures will start April 7 and will roll out through the next four weeks. Landry said the FAA hasn’t told him yet when the Gary tower will close.

Landry said the Gary airport could make its own contract with an outside company to staff the tower, but it would have to come up with the money — $500,000 a year — to pay for it.

The airport also has to wait to see what will happen to the companies that provide the tower employees, as some of them could be financially hurt from the federal cuts, Landry said.

“Are they going to remain a viable business because of this?” Landry said.

The tower’s closure will not affect Allegiant Air’s service at the Gary airport. Landry said he has received word that the airline plans to continue to normal operations at the airport. That will include another seasonal hiatus starting around the same time the tower closes, but that break is because of a lull in the tourism season between spring break and summer vacations, Landry said. The airline has told him they will pick up service again starting in mid-May.

The break is similar to one that took place last fall.



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