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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Petersburg works to keep tower open at Albert Whitted Airport



The fight is on to keep the control tower from closing at Albert Whitted Airport.

During an agenda-review meeting Thursday, Mayor Bill Foster told the City Council that staffers are pleading with federal officials to keep workers in the tower next month.

“We’re exploring every option,” Foster said.

City staffers, he said, have contacted the Federal Aviation Administration, Florida’s two U.S. senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and other elected officials.

Staffers are pointing out that Albert Whitted’s tower needs controllers since it is close to MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa International and St. Petersburg-Clearwater airports and an urban core, Foster said.

As a result for forced budget cuts, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would go forward with closing the tower at Albert Whitted Airport, one of 149 towers at small airports nationwide that will start going dark in April.

The agency said it had no choice but to subject most of its 47,000 employees, including tower controllers, to periodic furloughs and to close facilities at small airports with lighter traffic.

Federal officials recently agreed to keep two smaller towers open near military bases in the Panhandle and Jacksonville, Foster said.

Operators of other small airports have asked St. Petersburg to join in a lawsuit to stop the closings. The city is considering the option.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 3:16pm]


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