"This has been a complex process, and we need to get this right," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a written statement Friday. "Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports."
Even with the FAA's decision to delay the closings, the the fight keep the towers open will continue.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said that he and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., plan to introduce legislation next week that will prohibit the FAA from closing any towers. Moran had made an unsuccessful attempt to secure funding to keep the towers open during the debate over the continuing resolution.
"While airports and air travelers across the country are breathing a sigh of relief, the Department of Transportation's decision to delay the closing of air traffic control towers is not a solution," Moran said. "Closing control towers is equivalent to removing stop lights and stop signs from our roads, and there is no reason they should be disproportionately targeted for an arbitrary and unfair 75 percent cut."
Local officials said the extension would give them the opportunity to find other ways to fund their towers.
"We're obviously excited because it buys us more time to make our case, " said Kevin Daugherty, manager at Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland, which was scheduled to shut down April 21. Officials at Frederick and three other Maryland airports targeted for closure are appealing to the state for financial help to keep the towers operating until the end of September.
Said Daugherty: "It's our Hail Mary."