Transportation

Small Airports Near Houston Won’t Lose Air Traffic Control Towers

A vote by the Texas Transportation Commission means air traffic control towers will stay open at 13 small airports around the state, including two in the Houston area. The commission's vote comes days before the towers were set to close because of federal sequestration cuts.

Officials from small airports around the state told the commission that air traffic control towers are crucial in situations where you have a mix of jets and small aircraft.

Jay Carpenter with the Texas Aviation Association says control towers are also important at small airports where you have a lot of beginner pilots.  

“There are many times you’ll be flying into an airport, and you get handed off to this or that, and you try to repeat what they told you and you may make a mistake. And they’re very quick to come back and say, no, here’s what we meant for you to do.”

The commission has now allocated TXDOT funds to keep those towers open for the next three months. 

That’s welcome news for Georgetown Regional Airport Manager Sarah Hinton.  She talked about an incident at her airport where controllers were able to help a novice pilot who was flying in the wrong direction.  

“Two other instructors were in an aircraft and heard the distressed pilot, he was a student pilot, and they actually got in contact with the tower. The tower guided them out there, and they flew side-by-side until they got back to the airport.”  

The Texas control towers were among 149 towers around the country that were ordered to close by April 7. The FAA issued the order after slicing $637 million from its budget.  

Two of those towers are at local airports, Sugar Land Regional and Lone Star Executive in Conroe. Had the towers closed, pilots would have been left to rely on a common radio frequency to communicate their location to other pilots. 

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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