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Kingsley Field tower saved from closure

Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) gets briefing by Doug Cunningham a civilian air traffic controller at the Kingsley Field Air Traffic Control Tower. Walden visited the tower in the wake of proposed sequestration cuts threatening its eminent closure, March 22, 2013. During his tour of the tower 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron personnel learned the tower has been removed from the FAA’s closure list prompting Walden to applaud and cite the cost effectiveness of the tower and its role in national security. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson, 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office)

Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) gets briefing by Doug Cunningham a civilian air traffic controller at the Kingsley Field Air Traffic Control Tower. Walden visited the tower in the wake of proposed sequestration cuts threatening its eminent closure, March 22, 2013. During his tour of the tower 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron personnel learned the tower has been removed from the FAA’s closure list prompting Walden to applaud and cite the cost effectiveness of the tower and its role in national security. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson, 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office)

KINGSLEY FIELD, Ore. -- The Associated Press reported March 8, that Kingsley Field's air traffic control tower was selected for closure under the terms of sequestration, a term describing a budget impasse in the U.S. Congress. Although the details are complex, the reality of the situation struck home first with the threat of furloughs for Kingsley's federal technician force of nearly 300 Airmen, and shortly thereafter with the prospect of a tower closure.

In response to the situation, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote a letter asking the Federal Aviation Administration to consider alternatives to closing the tower at Kingsley Field.
"The federal government must prioritize funding as we strive to utilize tax dollars more efficiently," he wrote. "However in this case, closing the Kingsley Field control tower poses a risk to both public safety and national defense."

Many more made the case for the Kingsley tower as well. Klamath Falls Airport Director John Longley helped draft a petition to keep the tower open with County Commissioner Jim Bellet, Klamath Falls Mayor Todd Kellstrom, 173rd Fighter Wing Commander, Col. Jeremy Baenen, members of the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron, the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, the Klamath Falls Airtanker Base, and the Klamath County Economic Development Association.

They made the case that although this tower is below the FAA's stated criteria for closure, "fewer than 150,000 movements and fewer than 10,000 airline operations annually," in the words of Doug Cunningham, a 270th air traffic controller, "complexity," needs to play a major role in the decision as well.

Cunningham pointed out that 173rd Fighter Wing F-15s comprise more than a third of the traffic, and that when you throw in a tanker base for firefighting efforts, as well as commercial and general aviation traffic, a tower is needed to safely conduct operations. He summed up the effects of a tower closure saying, "Best case scenario? A lot of inefficiencies. Worst case--catastrophes."

And so it was with an air of relief that while Rep. Walden stood in the tower during a visit to the base to discuss the effects of the closure, March 22, the FAA released a list of a few towers that would be spared due to national security concerns, and the tower at Kingsley is one of them.

Four other towers in Oregon were not able to make the case to FAA top administrator, Michael Huerta to remain open and closed in April, along with 145 others around the country.

Walden noted that with the good stewardship of the 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron this tower costs about one-third what another would cost with no Air National Guard affiliation. He noted that with its contribution to national security, "For once common sense prevailed."