Airport Administrators are hoping Dothan's name is taken off a list of about a 170 airports that will have its traffic control tower close because of federal budget cuts. A team compiled of airport administrators along with city and county leaders filed an appeal with the Federal Aviation Administration last week. Monday was supposed to be the day they were notified about the status of the tower, but that didn't happen. Airport Director Art Morris said the large amount of appeal applications were too much for the FAA panel to process in week. "It's not fun. All we can do is wait patiently to see what happens," continued Morris.
The FAA's decision will also determine if a new aviation company moves to the airport. It's a major economic deal that promises to bring hundreds of jobs. While the economic deal is big, Morris said it couldn't be mentioned in the appeal. Morris said the FAA would rule out appeals if lost jobs and economic developments deals are mentioned. The appeal is based on proving the tower's national significance.
"We made a very strong case to keep the tower open. We explained the military operation that's directly tied to Fort Rucker, Pensacola, and the Columbus Air Force base because we get training flights from those facilities as well," continued Morris.
Even though the industrial development deal could not be mentioned in the appeal, it's still a major concern for airport administrators. The aviation company would have brought some much needed financial relief to the airport. The authority is now paying thousands of dollars a month on the up keep of the old Pemco property. "In addition to that we have some insurance expenses to take care of because Pemco was paying for the insurance on all of those buildings and now we're paying for the insurance on all those buildings. The real key to this is restoring those jobs out there. That's what the community needs and we're more focused on that more than anything," said Morris.
While they're trying to restore jobs lost, more cuts could be on the way if the tower closes. Six air traffic controllers would automatically lose their jobs and two FAA technicians would be furloughed.
Morris will find out the status of the airport traffic tower on Friday, March 22nd. If the appeal is denied the tower would close on April 7th.