Latrobe air traffic control tower to close

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The air traffic control tower at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe will close, along with 148 others at small airports nationwide, as the Federal Aviation Administration cuts $637 million from its budget by November.

The closures will not force airports to shut down, but pilots will now coordinate takeoffs and landings by radio without ground controllers' help.

"We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports," FAA administrator Michael Huerta said in a news release.

Spirit Airlines -- which flies out of Latrobe to Dallas, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Fla. -- plans to operate a normal schedule, airline spokeswoman Misty Pinson said.

"Spirit is already authorized by the FAA to operate at [Arnold Palmer Regional Airport] when the control tower is closed," she said. "As such, the airline follows FAA-approved procedures to ensure safe operations when this control towers is closed."

Control towers will also close at Capital City Airport in Harrisburg and Lancaster Airport in Lancaster. Other nearby towers will close at the Cuyahoga County Airport in Ohio and West Virginia's Wheeling Ohio County Airport.

Closures will happen over a four-week period starting April 7, according to the FAA.

In late February, the FAA announced possible cuts to its budget for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, as it prepared for sequestration March 1, according to its website.

The possible cuts included furloughing many of its 47,000 employees for about a day per pay period, closing more than 100 air traffic control facilities, eliminating the overnight shift at more than 60 facilities, and reducing preventive maintenance and support for all air traffic control equipment.

The administration first proposed closing 189 towers -- located at airports with fewer than 150,000 total flights or 10,000 commercial flights annually -- six of which were in Pennsylvania.

Transportation - neigh_westmoreland

Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. The Associated Press contributed.


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