DUBUQUE, Iowa - Following Friday's decision by the Federal Aviation Administration to keep federal funding in place for 149 contract air traffic control towers, people at the Dubuque Regional Airport hope this will buy more time.
"Another 53 days," said Greg Sapp, air traffic manager with Midwest Air Traffic Control Service, a company that contracts with dozens of airports. "To take this layer of safety out of the equation, it is not a good plan."
The first talk of eliminating the federal funding came in late February as the sequestration deadline of March 1 approached. Dubuque found itself on the list of 149 airports that would find the money cut off.
Airport manager Robert Grierson said this process has led to "frustration" and has been "terribly flawed." He said, by phone on Friday, that his hope is this can allow more time for airport leaders to secure funding to keep the towers manned.
Dubuque's funding deadline had been set to end on April 22. This would also come at a critical time for the hundreds of University of Dubuque students who fly in the school's aviation program. This extension will take them through the semester at the very least.
"We can't replace this tower," Steve Accinelli, director of aviation programs, said. "They provide us a level of safety that we cannot replicate. We can help manage it through other means but we simply cannot replicate it."
DBQ is at an unusual place among the state's airports. While only served by one commercial airline and a handful of daily flights, the UD students fill the skies on clear days. Sapp said Dubuque handles 50,000 operations each year and, on a busy day, between 300-400 landings.
"When we have a good weather day, with visual flight rules, we are the busiest airport in Iowa, bar none," Accinelli said.