A last minute decision from the Federal Aviation Administration will spare shutting down the air traffic control tower at Felts Field, at least for now.
The FAA says it wants to take more time to decide how closing towers across the country could affect the public's safety.
Everyone at Felts Field. from the 144 pilots who have hangers to the lady who owns the Skyway Cafe is glad about this reprieve.
If you know just a little bit about how important this airport is to our community... you'd think shutting down the tower is a bad idea.
Tomorrow was supposed to be the last day air traffic controllers would be launching and landing planes at Felts Field.
Fortunately, airport director Larry Krauter knew the tower would be targeted by automatic spending cuts and went to Washington, D.C. in the hopes of getting felts off the list.
Larry Tobin of Spokane Airports Tenants Association, “so Larry Krauter, our director, spent a week in Washington and tried to get it reversed and when he couldn't, he filed a lawsuit and since then about 30 airports have hooked onto the lawsuit.”
The lawsuit alleges the FAA violated its own procedures when not taking into account how aviation safety would be affected by closing the Felts tower.
Controllers at the busy general aviation airport guide dozens of planes over the tricky nearby terrain, not to mention watch over the medical and law enforcement helicopters that use this field every day.
This is also where private planes share the same airspace with jets on their final approach for Fairchild and Spokane International and without the Felt's tower helping to keep those aircraft separated, pilots say there could be some real safety problems.
Tobin says "it's a very bad scenario for just closing this tower. now if we were sitting down in Lewiston or Walla Walla... that's a different story cause they're out in the middle of no where and there's no other airspaces involved. We have complicated airspaces involved and we really need controllers a lot more than these other isolated airports.”
Felts is also home to several businesses that rely on a tower controlled airspace.
Moody Aviation trains its missionaries to become bush pilots serving third world countries.
The Skyway Cafe is a delicious destination for hundreds of private plane pilots every year. Sandy Melter owns the Skyway Cafe, “we have big planes, small planes, young fliers-old fliers and they're used to having a tower here and i think the government should cut something besides our safety.” So now the FAA has put off closing this and 148 other towers across the country until it can do a risk analysis at each airstrip.
It takes about 450 thousand dollars a year to staff the Felts tower and that is not very much money when you look at the FAA's overall budget.