FAA delays closures of air traffic control towers, Boca Raton Airport scrambles for solutions

Towers closures are delayed until June 15th

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- - From Witham Field in Stuart to Boca Raton Airport, there is new breathing room on Friday in the bid to keep air traffic control towers open.

The FAA is delaying closures required under federal budget cuts until June 15th because of a  huge safety outcry. That might allow local officials more time to prepare or find alternate sources of funding.

Boca Raton Airport bosses are still scrambling for solutions if the tower were to close. And for one woman, that fight includes flashbacks to the deadly danger that once rained from the sky.

"A war zone quite frankly. There were pieces of aircraft all over," said Janet Sherr, who now works at the Boca Raton Airport Authority.

Sherr remembers the day back in June of 2000 when two planes, a jet and a single-engine aircraft, slammed into each other. The collision killed all four people on board the planes and it all happened right in Sherr's backyard.

"If that collision had been 100 feet to the south, it would have ended up in my home," said Sherr.

Investigators said the planes were flying without the guidance of air traffic controllers and did not see one another.

Five months later, a tower was built.

"I don't think I can stand here and tell you that if the towers were in, the accident would not have happened. No one really knows that," said Sherr.

Sherr does say with the tower -- the chances of a crash are greatly reduced.

"I feel much more comfortable at night when I hear aircraft going over my house that I know they're being directed in and out by a controller," said Sherr.


The FAA announced on Friday it is delaying closures of 149 towers nationwide.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood released this statement:

"This has been a complex process and we need to get this right. Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports," wrote LaHood.

Sherr knows the battle is not over.
 
"It's going to be like a 15 round fight between airport executives and the faa and I think we've won round one," said Sherr.

The Boca Raton Airport has filed a petition, threatened to sue and enlisted the help of congresswoman Lois Frankel.

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