NE Philly, Wilmington airports could lose control towers

The control towers at the Northeast Philadelphia and Wilmington-Castle airports may close as a result of the federal budget cuts known as the sequester. Both airports are on a list of more than 200 targeted for a potential shutdown by the Federal Aviation Administration.


Closing the control tower wouldn’t close the airports. Hundreds of small airports operate without towers. Pilots have certain landing and takeover protocols, as well as a common radio frequency to announce their intentions.

But Robert Rockmaker, director of the Aviation Council of Pennsylvania, said Northeast Philadelphia is an active airport that ought to have a control tower.

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“Northeast Philadelphia can handle business aircraft of all sizes, from a single-engine airplane to a jet aircraft,” Rockmaker said. “So the mix of traffic becomes another factor. You’ve got aircraft flying at different speeds, and safety is the No. 1 concern.”

The tower at Northeast Philadelphia currently operates from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Rockmaker said closing it completely could affect airport safety.

Keith Brune, Deputy Director for Operations and Facilities for the Philadelphia Division of Aviation, said he didn’t think the closure of the tower would have a “huge impact” on safety, noting that the corporate jets that use the airport have instrument flight plans and are in touch with air traffic control when the tower is closed.

Brune said the airport hasn’t been given any information from the FAA about the liklihood that the northeast airport would close.

FAA spokesman Jim Peters said no final decisions have has been made about which towers might close.

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