Sequestration may close FAA contract control tower at Tacoma Narrows Airport

The Federal Aviation Administration’s contract control tower at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor may close as the FAA implements the budget sequestration, Pierce County officials announced Wednesday. This proposed tower closure is one of many that could occur at airports around the country.

“Between now and March 13, the FAA is reviewing its list of locations where it plans to discontinue air traffic control services to identify locations where the national interest would be adversely affected by tower closure,” according to a March 5 letter from the FAA to Pierce County, which operates the airport.

The FAA will consider information until March 13 on how these proposed tower closures would negatively impact the national interest. Submissions may be sent to ATO-Terminal Services at or by fax to (202) 493-4565. The FAA plans to finalize its list of facility closures by March 18.

The letter adds that while the timing of this action is driven by sequestration, similar reductions may be needed in the future due to budget pressure.

Tacoma Narrows Airport will remain open if the FAA contract tower closes. Instead of having tower controllers directing air traffic, pilots would use well-defined procedures applicable at all airports without an operating control tower. These standard procedures are already in use between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. at the Tacoma Narrows Airport, and 24 hours per day at Pierce County Airport-Thun Field, which is also operated by Pierce County and has never had a control tower.

“We value having the FAA’s contract tower onsite for our pilots, and hope that it continues this important operation,” said Deb Wallace, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities airport and ferry administrator. “The decision to close the tower is not yet final, and Pierce County will advocate for the tower to remain open.”

Pierce County's Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor. (PHOTO COURTESY PIERCE COUNTY)