Felts Field tower gets reprieve

Spokane Valley News Herald - Mike Huffman

The lights will remain on at the Felts Field tower until at least September, according to the U.S. Department of transportation. The tower – along with  148 others at small airports across the country – was slated for closure in June  as part of the nationwide sequestration process. However, the department had  enough money left over from emergency legislation that was passed in Congress  titled the Reducing Flight Delays Act.

While the news is positive, the act only funds the tower’s operation through the end of the 2013 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. “This is great news for Spokane and the region because having Felts Field always manned will help give us the resources we need to coordinate between Spokane, Fairchild and Felts Field to make sure that air traffic can continue to grow in the region, said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in a prepared statement last Friday. Cantwell is the chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations. Lawrence Krauter, chief executive officer of Spokane Airports, operator of Felts Field and Spokane International Airport, lauded Cantwell and other lawmakers for their efforts.

“I would also like to thank Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who devoted considerable time to this issue,” Krauter said. “She met with us several times in Washington, D.C, and also met with a group of Felts Field tenants over the Easter break while she was back in her district office.”

Krauter also had kind words for Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, along with Washington Sen. Patty Murray. “(Murray) played a very important behind-the-scenes role as the chair of the Senate Budget Committee and Appropriations Subcommittee chair in making certain that our interests were represented and that a legislative solution was ultimately successful,” he said. The FAA still must find a long-term solution to keep the airport towers open beyond Sept. 30. The airports can stay open after that time, however the towers – which operate through federal contracts – would be closed, losing an extra set of eyes on the sky. Pilots would need to communicate with one another during landings and takeoffs.