Airport hoping to put cuts on hold

WHEELING – Wheeling-Ohio County Airport Manager Tom Tominack presented a letter Wednesday to the Ohio County Commission that he wrote on its behalf related to the airport control tower’s planned closure by the government.

Tominack presented Commissioners Orphy Klempa, Tim McCormick and Randy Wharton the letter before making his budget requests for fiscal 2014. The letter is addressed to David Grizzle, chief operating officer of the Air Traffic Organization at the Federal Aviation Administration. It states reasons why the airport needs its tower and how it would be a safety hazard if it were to close.

“In response to your March 5 notice to close the Wheeling Control Tower due to the budget sequestration … I respectfully request that the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport be removed from the closure list,” Tominack said.

He said without a tower, more runway incursions are likely to occur.

“During my 31-year aviation career I can cite on many occasions when incidents were only avoided due to (an air traffic controller) being at this location,” he said.

He also notes the airport supports the National Guard and Armory that trains with Black Hawk helicopters. The airport also has a user agreement with the U.S. Air Force, which trains with C-130s nearly every day using the tower as part of its training. The airport also hosts the U.S. Army Reserve Center for the 463rd Engineers.

The sequester calls for reducing the FAA’s budget by $600 million. Because of this, it plans to close towers that have fewer than 150,000 flights per year. The Ohio County airport logged about 38,000 flights last year.

Meanwhile, during his budget hearing, Tominack projected his revenues at $983,500 and expenditures at $983,193. He requested his building maintenance fund be increased from $4,000 to $15,000 to allow for repairs to the aviation center’s roof.