Costa Urges FAA to Reconsider Closing Castle Airport Control Tower

March 12, 2013

Washington, DC- Rep. Jim Costa urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to continue operation of the air traffic control tower at Merced County’s Castle Airport. The Valley-based airport is on a list of control towers under consideration for closure due to sequestration cuts. Castle supports critical military training operations, natural disaster readiness, and hundreds of local jobs. Full text of Costa’s letter to FAA Administrator Huerta can be found below.

 

March 12, 2013

The Honorable Michael P. Huerta

Administrator

Federal Aviation Administration

U.S. Department of Transportation

Washington, D.C. 20591

 

Dear Administrator Huerta:

This letter serves to express my deep concern regarding the slated closure of the air traffic control tower at Castle Airport. While I understand the extraordinary funding situation the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) faces as a result of the sequester’s misguided across-the-board cuts, I strongly believe that Castle’s unique circumstances and vital role in direct military support and disaster relief make it essential to the national interest.

Castle Airport is an impressive facility strategically located in the heart of California’s Central Valley. The airport has an expansive 11,802 foot runway capable of accommodating the largest of aircraft and hardstand parking for more than 80 wide-body, heavy aircraft. In addition, Castle has the ability to store more than 1 million gallons of jet fuel and 12,000 gallons of aviation gasoline.

Formerly Castle Air Force Base, Castle Airport continues to be utilized by the U.S. military principally because it has an active air traffic control tower. The airport serves as a critical training site for the U.S. Air Force Airlift and Air Refueling Training Missions, and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps regularly utilize Castle for large-scale helicopter training exercises. Without an active control tower, Castle may be unable to support these critical military training missions.

Castle also serves as a central component of the region’s coordinated natural disaster and public health response effort. The airport currently houses the Merced County Emergency Operations Center and the Merced County Sherriff’s Dispatch center. As such, Castle is well positioned to serve as the base of operations should a major emergency occur on the West Coast of the United States. In addition, Castle is already designated as a location into which vaccines could be flown for distribution to public health providers in the event of a wide-scale health disaster requiring mass immunization. Closure of the tower at Castle would unnecessarily hamper our response to major natural disaster and public health emergencies.

Castle is also a major economic engine for the region. Thanks to the air traffic control tower, Castle was able to attract Sierra Aviation, an international flight school that employs nearly 100 well-paid instructors and 200 students. The flight school is currently on pace for more than 150,000 operations in this year alone.

Shutting down this tower clearly will jeopardize aviation safety and efficiency at the airport, slow down our economic recovery, damage our national security, and impede our ability to respond to natural disasters and public health emergencies. On behalf of my constituents in California’s 16th Congressional District, I urge you to continue to operate Castle Airport’s air traffic control tower.

Sincerely,

JIM COSTA

Member of Congress

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