Control tower at Barnes Airport remaining open - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Control tower at Barnes Airport remaining open

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The air control tower at Barnes Municipal airport will remain open despite sweeping cuts from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The decision came down Friday afternoon after weeks of tension at Barnes, both for airport and base officials.

"We weren't very confident knowing that the federal government had to make some drastic decisions in order to save money," said Maj. Matthew Mutti.

The FAA was forced to shave $600 million off their budget and announced Friday that 149 towers across the country will be forced to shut down, including five here in Massachusetts. 

"We're so very happy that we're staying open, but for so many of our colleagues around the state and around the country that are losing their jobs, it's bittersweet," said the air traffic manager at Barnes, Art Lustenberger. 

Lustenberger says the role that the 104th Fighter Wing plays not only locally but across the Northeast is a major reason why the tower needs to remain operational.

"When the alert phone goes off, these guys have to be airborne in seven minutes and that's where we come in to make sure that nobody's in the way, nobody's using the intersecting runway and they just get off as quickly as they can," he said.

The tower also plays an economical role.

"Other companies to come reside here at Westfield would be impacted because they would choose to go to airports that had operating control towers," said airport Manager, Brian Barnes.

Barnes officials say now the fleet of F-15s housed at the base will continue to run smoothly among the 65,000 annual operations at the airport.

"The tower is critical to our operations because it controls both the civilian aircraft as well as ours," Mutti said.

The 149 towers across the country will be closed beginning April 7.

The funding to keep the Barnes tower open will run through October.

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