Airport Tower Closures

FAA Contract Tower Closure List


Air Traffic Control Facility Closures
Notice Number: NOTC4665

On February 22, 2013, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) Michael Huerta jointly announced the possible impacts of a budget sequestration on FAA operations.  This announcement included notification of potential closure of over 100 air traffic control towers, with those impending closures beginning April 7, 2013.  The FAA has subsequently released a list of 149 control towers that will be closed and the agency has made the decision to keep 24 federal contract towers open, read:  Press Release – FAA Makes Tower Closing Decision
As the probability of these tower closures and reduced operating hours nears, it is important to increase our awareness of proper operating practices and procedures at airports without an operating control tower.  Although we often hear these airports called “uncontrolled”, you can help ensure continued safe and controlled operations through adherence to published practices and procedures. Of course, “non-towered airport” is the proper term to use for an airport without an operating control tower. 
There are many resources that provide advisory information for operations at airports without an operating control tower. These include the FAA Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)Advisory Circular (AC) 90-66A , CFR 91.113 (Basic Right of Way Rules), CFR 91.126 and CFR 91.127 (Traffic Flow Rules at Non-Towered Airports). 
Please also note that some aeronautical experience for pilot certification requires takeoffs and landings at a towered airport. This may increase activity at the remaining towered airports, and will necessitate diligent planning on the part of training providers, instructors and students. 
So, what can I do?

  • Always check NOTAMs prior to flight.
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.  Remember, communication includes listening, not just transmitting.
  • Stay alert and continually scan for traffic. This may include turbojet, turboprop or helicopter operators that are not accustom to “standard traffic patterns” at your airport.
  • Be aware that you may now be sharing the traffic pattern with non-radio equipped aircraft or ultralights.
  • Spend some time with your CFI improving your knowledge and skills.
  • Improve your knowledge by completing one or more of the many on-line courses available through the FAASafety.govwebsite. 
URL for the links listed in the notice: 
Press Release:
AC 90-66A:$FILE/AC90-66A.pdf
CFR 91.113:
CFR 91.126:
CFR 91.127:
Remember, safety is every pilot’s responsibility. Have a safe and enjoyable flight! 


- Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It sounds unbelievable but on April 7th almost two-hundred towers across our great nation are scheduled to be closed including: Fullerton; Santa Monica; and Hawthorne. Statistically one third of all accidents occur at uncontrolled airports; so, does the word insane pop into your head; it did in mine! The bottom line is that IMMEDIATE action is mandated. This matter is truly URGENT; this is NOT A FIRE DRILL. The deadline to comment is tonight [March 13, 2013] so in the interest of aviation safety Godspeed.

Below you’ll find specific content and people to contact in the letters and commentary I copied and pasted from: the AOPA, Bill Griggs [re KFUL Fullerton and includes a letter from Monica Roseberry] and Pat Cary [re Santa Monica and Hawthorne].

Like me you are most likely busy with life at the moment; but it you value your safety and the safety of others, please carve out a half hour, step up to the plate and shoulder your fair share of the responsibility to protect our freedoms to fly. If bad things happen due to these tower closures, it is your and my freedoms that will be at risk.

The strict deadline for these submissions is March 13, 2013; they are to be sent to:

ATO-Terminal Services


Fax: (202) 493-4565.

Find who your representative is and share your concerns with your congressperson using the following links:


Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) letter

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) sent a letter today to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, urging him to stop cuts from sequestration that will “disproportionately” affect the safety of general aviation operations. “The recommended cuts will have unacceptable consequences for the nation and the flying community,” AOPA president and CEO Craig Fuller wrote to Huerta. “We urge you to suspend the planned cuts while we, and others, call upon Congress and the Administration’s budget officials to grant you the needed flexibility to make choices that will reduce spending without threatening the safety of our skies or disabling general aviation.”

One of the biggest cuts will come to air traffic services in the form of control tower closures–nearly 200 of them and mainly at GA airports, according to the latest FAA estimates. Most of these towers are operated by private contractors, “a system with an excellent record of safety and efficiency,” said Fuller. “Contract towers handle approximately 28 percent of all air traffic control tower operations in the U.S., but account for just 14 percent of the FAA’s total tower operations budget…it is illogical to dismember this program in a budget-reduction scenario.”

Besides the tower closures, Fuller is also alarmed at cuts that would “restrict weather and flight services, allow the navigational system to deteriorate and derail aircraft certification.”

Fullerton [KFUL] - from Bill Griggs Sr.

Good afternoon, everyone.


Please see the attached letter from the FAA regarding the possible closure of the control tower at the Fullerton Airport.  The City is asking that each of the Airport’s public agencies write an appeal to the FAA.  These letters should indicate how the closure of the control tower will negatively affect your operations. 


PLEASE read the attached letter and the e-mail below.  Both of these documents will give you better insight as to what kind of information the FAA is, and is not, looking for in order to reconsider closing the KFUL control tower.


The strict deadline for these submissions is March 13, 2013, and they should be sent to


ATO-Terminal Services


Fax: (202) 493-4565.


Please let me know if you have any questions.


Thanks for all your help!


Mónica Roseberry

Airport Operations CA III

Fullerton Municipal Airport

4011 W. Commonwealth Ave.

Fullerton, CA  92833

(714) 738-6323


Subject: Important Update -- FAA to Close Contract Towers on April  7


TO:   Airports with FAA Contract Towers Scheduled for Closure


In a conference call today with AAAE, ACI-NA, and NASAO, FAA ATO COO David Grizzle and other agency officials outlined specifics and a timeline for shutting down contract towers in the weeks ahead.  The bottom line is that 173 of the 189 towers previously identified for closure (all those not in the cost-share program) will be shut down onApril 7 under current agency planning.  The 173 affected airports and the 16 cost-share airports – which we believe are targeted for closure by the end of the fiscal year – will receive a letter of notification from the agency via email later today that provides additional details and specifics.  


During today’s call, FAA officials indicated that they will consider requests to keep towers open in instances where closure would have a “negative impact on the national interest.”  FAA did not indicate what factors would be used to evaluate whether or not a tower meets that definition, but it was clear they do not expect to issue many – if any – exemptions.  FAA officials also made clear that they will not consider “local circumstances” as they make final evaluations.  Airports will have until March 13 to make the case that the closure of their tower will have national implications.  FAA also made clear that they will contemplate keeping non-federal towers open at local airport expense.


If keeping your tower open is important to your community, PLEASE review the following information and take immediate action. Folks – this is NOT A FIRE DRILL. We need to once again emphasize to each of you – we will continue to fight the fight in WashingtonBUT we need each and every one of you and those in your local aviation community to take immediate action.


Also, we have heard from numerous airport directors over the past few days about their intention to explore with the contractors the possibility of the local airport paying to keep the towers operational.  We certainly understand that instinct; HOWEVER, we strongly urge you NOT to abandon your communications with your congressional delegation and your local media. Everyone in the field is doing an outstanding job raising the visibility of these cuts on the Hill and in local media outlets. We have seen dozens and dozens of excellent local news stories/TV reports and emails to the Hill the past week. Let's keep the momentum going and keep the pressure on your members of Congress to find a fix for this unfortunate situation.


PLEASE review the following IMMEDIATE action items:


Immediate Congressional Action Needed

Now that FAA has published a list of targeted contract towers for closure and a timeline for closing those facilities, we recommend you continue to contact your congressional offices as early as possible this week (House members and your two Senators) and communicate the following message to your elected official or the staff person who handles aviation matters. Time is of the essence. There is no time to mail letters – emails and phone calls will be the most timely way to communicate.


Emphasize that closing your tower could jeopardize aviation safety and efficiency and kill jobs in your community.

Ask your congressional offices to contact DOT Secretary LaHood and FAA Administrator Huerta to ask for fairness in these budget cuts. Closing 189 contract towers represents a 75 percent cut in the 251 contract towers nationwide while the rest of FAA’s budget faces a five percent reduction. A 75 percent cut is highly disproportionate compared to other FAA programs and unjustly discriminates against a program that the DOT Inspector General has repeatedly says is a cost-effective program for taxpayers.

IMPORTANT NEW HILL REQUEST – The House will consider a continuing resolution (CR) this week to fund the federal government through the end of September, and the Senate will consider a CR in the near future . As such, if your House and Senate offices have been sympathetic to your pending tower closure, please ask them to contact as quickly as possible the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senate DOT/FAA Appropriations Subcommittee, Senate Commerce Committee, Senate Aviation Subcommittee, House Appropriations Committee, House DOT/FAA Appropriations Subcommittee, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and House Aviation Subcommittee and encourage these committees to come up a legislative fix in the continuing resolution that treats contract towers with the same percentage cut (five to eight percent) as the rest of FAA versus the 75 percent cut contract towers are facing (189 contract towers out of the total number of contract towers of 251).

Bottom line - closing our tower could jeopardize the safety and efficiency of our airport and will certainly mean the significant loss of jobs in our community. DOT and FAA must find other savings before shutting down critical air traffic control towers nationwide.

Please click on the links below to get the phone numbers of your congressional delegation.

ALSO IMPORTANT – PLEASE ask all of your local aviation tenants, users, and local business/political leaders to make these same calls/emails to your congressional delegation. It is CRITICALLY important that we can get as many voices in your communities sending the same message as possible. We need to continue raising the noise level in Washington!


Local Media Coverage

We encourage each of you to also continue following up with your local media. You can also direct your local media to contact me or Joel Bacon of the AAAE legislative team if they need more information.

The message to your local media is simple: 


  • Closing our tower could jeopardize aviation safety and kill jobs in our community.
  • Closing 189 contract towers represents a 75 percent cut in the 251 contract towers nationwide while the rest of FAA’s budget faces a five percent reduction. A 75 percent cut is highly disproportionate compared to other FAA programs and unjustly discriminates against a program the DOT Inspector General has repeatedly says is a cost-effective program for taxpayers.
  • Bottom line - closing our tower could jeopardize the safety and efficiency of our airport and will certainly mean the significant loss of jobs in our community. DOT and FAA must find other savings before shutting down critical air traffic control towers nationwide. 

As mentioned earlier, I am on an AAAE overseas business trip. I am working closely with the AAAE team in Alexandria throughout my trip. Because of the time difference, I do ask that you include Joel Bacon of the AAAE legislative team on emails you send me (; phone703/824-0500, ext. 154). Joel is on top of these development as well and will be glad to answers questions if you need something immediate. Please include both of us on your emails with any updates from your Hill offices.


Spencer Dickerson


601 Madison Street

Alexandria, VA  22314

phone 703/824-0500, ext. 130


Pat Cary Letter

To Whom It May Concern

Subject: Closure of Hawthorne and Santa Monica Control Towers.

As the Chairman of the Southern California Airspace Users Working Group I have been asked to write this letter to justify keeping the Hawthorne, HHR, and Santa Monica, SMO airport control towers open during this period of Sequestration.

It seems unbelievable to those of us who have worked on the airspace design in the Los Angeles area that anyone could consider closing the two control towers that closely support LAX the major hub airport in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it appears that it could happen. The safety issues alone should be extremely obvious. There are no less than 13 transitions over LAX north/south and east/west at 500 ft. separation intervals. On a daily basis one third of these transitions enter and exit through the Class D airspace of SMO and HHR. The entry points for the Mini Route and Helicopter Sepulveda transition begin and end with the Class D of HHR and SMO.

Statistically one third of all accidents occur at uncontrolled airports. Hawthorne airport will be at risk of closure. The City of Hawthorne will not understand uncontrolled airport operations. The risk of an uncontrolled airport which was designated as the “Fifth Runway” of LAX for air traffic operations because of it’s proximity to LAX may very well be unacceptable.

As one of the members of the panel during the FAA’s SMS Risk assessment of the HHR simultaneous approach waiver, I participated in the risk mitigation that requires the HHR tower be open to allow approaches during simultaneous operations. The HHR tower is the safety buffer along the south side of the LAX arrivals. A recent request was forwarded from the Western Pacific Region Service Center to add an additional hour of operations to the HHR tower. The additional hour of operation would match the SMO tower hours to improve the safety of the LAX transitions and approach during peak arrival hours. This hour would also improve the safety of numerous police helicopter operations in the area under and around the LAX finals.

I would also like to address specifically the efforts to create the finely tuned Hawthorne/LAX tower operations and what it has taken financially to get to the current system in place. In the year 2000 there was a ballot measure to close the airport filed by a developer wanting the airport land for other than airport development. The measure was defeated by 71% of the voters in Hawthorne who wanted to keep their airport open. That began a process to keep the airport open as a community friendly airport and continue to develop the airport as a reliever airport to LAX. An airport supported by the community is rare. The relief to LAX is real.

From 2002 until 2013, the FAA, with contributing funds from the city of Hawthorne, has spent 6.3 million dollars in grant money to bring the runways, taxiways, lighting, and support equipment up to modern standards. The City of Hawthorne contributed 5 % in matching funds. In 2012 an additional grant of 1.1 million dollars was issued that the city was required to match to upgrade the tower facility at HHR.

While the funds mentioned were spent in the interest of safety, and because HHR is a designated reliever airport, there was also a private sector contribution. The subsequent effort to attract jet and turboprop traffic away from landing at LAX, already impacted by too much traffic began with leasing airport property to a development group. That business entity has spent millions of dollars of private funds building a first class Fixed Base Operations facility, hangars, and attracting airport compatible business to the Hawthorne airport.

The key to the success of this venture is dependent on HHR being able to operate under Instrument Flight Rules and truly function as the fifth runway of LAX. It took over two years and thousands of man hours of work by FAA staff to develop an up to date waiver for continued “simultaneous” parallel approach operations between LAX and HHR during peak arrival periods. Since final approval of the waiver in 2011 the airport utilization at HHR has steadily increased. THE WAIVER IS DEPENDENT ON THE TOWER BEING IN OPERATION. If the tower is closed the small, medium, and large corporate jet traffic to HHR will have to return to LAX or other impacted airports in the area. All commercial and general aviation operations will be severely impacted with huge delays to an airport that is currently operating very efficiently. Safety and security issues will be huge.

Santa Monica is faced with many of the same issues as HHR with an even greater threat of closing by the community. The FAA financial investment at SMO has been less in recent years, but the facility value to the LAX operation is equally significant.

The real issue with both airports is their significant contribution to LAX safety and security.  The Class D airspace of SMO and HHR provides the buffer to LAX operations that is vital to safety.

I have been a member of the SCAUWG airspace committee continuously since the establishment of the committee following the Cerritos accident in 1986. I have been the Chairman or Co-Chairman for the past 16 years. I have seen tremendous improvement in air safety by FAA staff and the group in the past 26 years. Closing either of the towers that border LAX would be the most dangerous action that could be taken toward producing another Cerritos accident that I can imagine.


Patrick T. Carey
Southern California Airspace Users Group