North Bend tower closure delayed until June

NORTH BEND, Ore.-- (UPATED)-- The Federal Aviation Administration is delaying the closure of the control tower at the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend until June 15.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said Friday the delay will give all 149 airports impacted time to make more safety preparations for the closures.

"We will continue our outreach to the user community to answer any questions and address their concerns about these tower closures," Huerta said in a press release.
"This has been a complex process and we need to get this right," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports." The delay also gives airports time to find private funding sources so they can stay open after the Federal funds are cut.


The effects of the Federal government across the board budget cuts are about to hit home on the South Coast.

Beginning Sunday, four people who work in the control tower at the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport will by laid-off and the tower will cease operations, but there will be no noticable effects for passengers flying in and out of the airport.

"We already talked to Skywest to make sure they would still fly in without that service, and they said they would," Joe Benetti, Coos County Airport Commission Chairman, said.

Seaport Airlines tells KCBY News that they also planned to continue service into the airport.

Benetti said the tower in an unfortunate loss, and the airport hopes to re-open it in the future.

"Do we want the tower back? Absolutely. Is it the safest thing for this airport? Absolutely. Are those for jobs important? Yes they are. So we want to make sure that that comes back," he said.

The airport's executive director said when the potential closure was announced that the airport and others in its situation will apply for grants or ask for help from the airlines that fly into their airport for funding assistance.

"If they want tower service, they will now have to find other funding sources for it," Theresa Cook, Southwest Oregon Regional Airport executive director, said.

Before the tower completed construction in 2009, pilots flying in and out of North Bend had to coordinate their take-offs and landings with each other. Without a tower, Cook said it is a return to the previous way of doing business, and it is something the airport has done for most of its history.

Skywest Airlines announced that it would begin regional jet service this summer at the airport using a Canadair Regional Jet- 200 series. Benetti said since that jet is operated by Skywest, there are no expected changes to regional jet service because of the tower closure, and the airline remains committed to the area.

According to United Airlines' website, many seats on the regional jet this summer are selling quickly.