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Closing airport control towers: Eyes wide open

Endangered structures

TEXAS is home to pickup trucks that weigh more than the titchy propeller-driven passenger planes that serve Victoria, a regional airport near the state’s Gulf coast. Just eight passengers fit into the Piper Navajos which hop to Houston four times daily. Subsidised as an “essential air service” by the government, the little planes offer the only scheduled passenger flights at the airport, a former military base built during the second world war.Yet complaints have greeted the Federal Aviation Authority’s proposal to close Victoria’s air-traffic control tower, as one of 149 “contract” towers (federally funded, but staffed by private contractors) marked to lose FAA support under government spending cuts known as the sequester.The area’s Republican member of Congress, Blake Farenthold, is a fan of smaller government. But he calls air-traffic control primarily a federal responsibility and says that the FAA has walked away at a terrible moment: just when Victoria is lobbying airlines to lay on a jet service to Dallas, to take advantage of a “huge economic boom” in Victoria because of shale oil-and-gas drilling and the 2012…

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