The smaller area airports are intended to relieve traffic at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, but closing their control towers could force more of it to the larger facility.
From the airport tower, a pair of air traffic controller monitor and direct takeoffs and landings from the Anoka County-Blaine Airport, which has 400 based aircraft and two 5,000-foot runways. The airport, shown Friday, had 80,000 operations last year. "At times, the tower tells you what runway is active and it will direct traffic to that, much like a traffic cop in an intersection," said Christ Gabiou, Director of Marketing for Twin Cities Aviation.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday announced the closure of control towers at 149 smaller airports, including two in the Twin Cities and St. Cloud that serve private and corporate planes.
The closure of the towers at Anoka County-Blaine Airport and St. Cloud Regional Airport in early April will leave those facilities open but require pilots to assume more responsibilities for landings and take-offs.
The closures stem from an unresolved budget battle between President Obama and Congress that triggered cuts in federal spending, including $600 million by the FAA.
“We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
Minnesota airport officials say they expect the loss of air traffic controllers to prompt some business jets to move from the Anoka airport to Minneapolis-St. Paul, potentially causing delays.
While officials downplayed safety concerns, St. Cloud airport manager Bill Towle said, “It’s certainly beneficial to have another set of eyes out there.”
Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504