March 22, 2013 - Planning for EAA AirVenture 2013 air operations is continuing as normal despite Friday's announcement that the Wittman Regional Airport contract tower's year-round operations will end April 7 because of federal budget sequestration mandates.
The Wittman tower was among 149 contract towers that the Federal Aviation Administration selected for closure as part of the sequestration closure plan. Twenty-four towers that were on the original closure list were removed and will remain open.
"While we're disappointed to learn of the Wittman tower closure, it's important for everyone to understand that air traffic operations during and surrounding AirVenture will not be adversely affected," said Sean Elliott, EAA's vice president of advocacy and safety. "It's important to separate the AirVenture air traffic operations with year-round activities at Oshkosh, even as it is one of the state's five busiest airports throughout the year. We are continuing to work with FAA officials to ensure that the highest levels of safety and coordination are maintained when Wittman becomes the world's busiest airport during AirVenture."
The Wittman tower was among eight Wisconsin air traffic control towers, and 149 towers nationwide, slated for closure next month. Others included air traffic control towers in Mosinee, Eau Claire, Kenosha, Janesville, La Crosse, Milwaukee Timmerman, and Waukesha.
In Winnebago County, local officials are discussing options to continue year-round tower service at Wittman, which has had air traffic control facilities for a half-century. The tower at the world-famous airport is a contract tower operating under an agreement between the FAA and Midwest Air Traffic Services Inc., a private firm that uses FAA-certificated air traffic control operators at their facilities.
"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 in a news release announcing the tower closures Friday afternoon.
In early March, FAA proposed to close 189 contract air traffic control towers as part of its plan to meet the $637 million in cuts required under budget sequestration and announced that it would consider keeping open any of these towers if doing so would be in the national interest.
EAA and other general aviation organizations continue to emphasize that GA is bearing the overwhelming burden of FAA's sequestration cutbacks. EAA continues to be vigilant to protect other areas that may significantly affect individual aviators' freedom and safety of flight.