TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — Texarkana officials hope commercial traffic at the region's airport will help keep its control tower open despite a federal funding cut.
After receiving a four-week reprieve from a Federal Aviation Administration order, the Texarkana Regional Airport's control tower is now scheduled to close May 5.
Airport Director Stephen Luebbert said Thursday that keeping commercial operations at the airport could perhaps lead to a full restoration of operations. The airport is one of 149 nationwide scheduled to have its control tower shuttered.
"Air traffic control tower closure isn't an option," Luebbert said at a public meeting Thursday, according to the Texarkana Gazette (http://bit.ly/10navf5 ). Luebbert said that, because the main runway at the airport isn't level, there are some visual limitations that would require an air traffic controller to maintain safe operations.
The incline briefly prevents the pilot of an oncoming aircraft from seeing another going in the opposite direction, especially during inclement weather or at night, he said. The potential for collision would force one of the planes to exit the runway.
"A control tower would be able to alert both pilots of both planes and keep this from happening," Luebbert said.
The city has already asked the FAA to keep funding the tower, but has been rejected. Luebbert also said local funding might be pursued.
Airport officials now intend to use the next month to bend all efforts toward keeping the tower open, since it could lead to the loss of commercial passenger airline service.
American Eagle, the airport's sole commercial passenger carrier, can use "non-towered airports and does so periodically," according to airport records. If Texarkana loses its tower, planes could be guided in through a tower at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Luebbert said previously.
Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said he and colleagues are hopeful the FAA could trim other areas of its budget, such as funding for conventions, travel, training and consulting, to keep towers open.
"I believe they could be trimming the fat from a lot of administrative areas and put more money toward safety features for people," Cotton said.
Information from: Texarkana Gazette, http://www.texarkanagazette.com