Air Traffic Control Tower Gets Reprieve

Fullerton Municipal Airport’s air traffic control tower will receive up to $50,000 temporary funding from the City’s general fund after a unanimous vote by the City Council Tuesday night.

This means that the air traffic control tower, which was slated to close Sunday, April 7 by orders of the Federal Aviation Administration, will remain open for at least another month until the City finds a permanent solution to contract traffic control operations. City staff is looking into entering a contract with British government services company Serco to provide air traffic control service.

The FAA can grant a 30-day extension of funding if the City decides to step in and take over operations.

Council Members like Jan Flory agreed that it’s “not prudent” to pass up an opportunity to keep the skies in Fullerton safe because of the crowded Southern California airspace. as well as protecting the City from huge liabilities if the tower was shut down.

“I think one death in this case—if we didn’t have this tower—would make $50,000 a drop in the bucket,” Flory said.

Mayor Pro Tem Doug Chaffee said that if the tower wasn’t operating, then the City wouldn’t have any liability in the event of an accident. City Attorney Richard D. Jones agreed with Chaffee, but said that if the City decides to outsource air traffic control operations, it does open the City to some liabilities.

Four members of the public, all pilots, spoke in favor of keeping the air traffic control tower open at Fullerton Municipal Airport.

“Most airports in the USA are not in the busiest airspace in the entire world,” said Jim Gandee, President of the Fullerton Airport Pilots Association. “The tower would provide an additional layer of safety.”

The item was placed as an emergency agenda item recommended by staff because the City had only a few days to decide before the tower shuts down.

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