LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A plan to close hundreds of air traffic control towers at smaller airports across the U.S. will be postponed, federal officials announced Friday.

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KNX 1070 aviation expert Charles Feldman reports the delays were announced just as several towers in Southern California were scheduled to shut down as early as this weekend.

Nearly 150 air traffic control towers nationwide – including towers in Pacoima, Fullerton, Riverside and Ramona – were expected to close within a four-week period beginning Sunday under forced spending cuts that took effect earlier this year as part of federal government sequestration.

But officials with the Federal Aviation Administration said a series of legal challenges will keep the towers located at Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, Fullerton Municipal Airport, Riverside Municipal Airport, Gen. William J. Fox Airfield in Lancaster, Brown Field in San Diego and Ramona Airport in San Diego County open until June.

There was also a renewed effort by airport authorities to independently secure funding for tower operations to prevent the closures, and the delay would help finalize those plans.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted in March to oppose the planned closures at Whiteman Airport and Fox Airfield over Whiteman’s proximity to Burbank Bob Hope Airport, saying, “Whiteman tower controllers
coordinate many dozens of flights per day through Burbank airspace.”

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While Santa Monica Airport is not among the list of potential closures, FAA officials did signal the airport would be considered in a later round of cuts.

Feldman said the loss of any airport tower in the region could pose a potential safety threat to airliners.

“This is the busiest chunk of airspace in the entire United States, and in this part of the country, there’s no question that you need as many controllers and as many control towers as you can get,” said Feldman.

In early March, the FAA proposed to close nearly 200 towers as part of its plan to meet the $637 million in cuts required under budget sequestration.

The federal agency said it was targeting towers at airports with less than 150,000 takeoffs and landings and less than 10,000 commercial flights a year.

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