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To Help Ease Sequestration Cuts, Stinson May Get Temporary TxDOT Funding

SAPD helicopter
Ryan Loyd
Texas Public Radio
One of several police helicopters inside the hangar at Stinson Airfield.

Gov. Rick Perry has asked for state funding to help airport control towers stay open after federal budget cuts take effect.

A week after San Antonio learned the tower at the historic Stinson Airport would be de-funded as part of sequestration, the governor made a plea to the Texas Transportation Commission to fund 13 of the small airport towers for 90 days. The Commission controls funding for the Texas Department of Transportation.

For several weeks, 11 Texas cities - including San Antonio, New Braunfels, and San Marcos - have known about the threat of closure of their small airport towers.

The Federal Aviation Administration finally created a short list and cut funding for 149 control towers nationwide, cutting about $600 million from its 2013 budget. Control towers were set to start closing April 7.

Stinson is known as a "reliever airport" with the F.A.A., and has been focused on increasing its activity. It is one of San Antonio’s main hubs for emergencies, with a State Department of Public Safety hangar, the San Antonio Police helicopter unit, and a fire station with aircraft rescue.

Stinson and other airports said pilots would be coordinating their own landings without the towers. The Austin American-Statesman reports that in asking the commission to consider his request, the governor called the control towers a "vital safety network."

TxDot has a $193 million aviation budget, and officials estimate keeping the 13 designated towers open would cost the state about $7 million a year.