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FAA moving ahead with air traffic control tower closures

The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to move ahead with closing 173 air traffic control towers at the beginning of April, including 13 in New England, although the agency is giving aviation authorities a chance to make a case for keeping their facilities open.

The closures, part of the FAA’s plan to slash its budget by $600 million as part of the forced federal spending cuts known as sequestration, could remove controllers from six towers in Massachusetts, six in Connecticut, and one in New Hampshire. The airports would remain open, but instead of relying on controllers for clearance to take off and land, pilots would communicate their position on an airport radio frequency.

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Paul Nugent, air traffic manager at Lawrence Municipal Airport, which is on the closure list, said eliminating tower personnel would “adversely impact the safety” of people flying into the airport, which handles everything from two-seat helicopters to corporate jets.

“We all understand there’s a huge deficit that has to be addressed and everybody’s going to feel these cuts,” he said, “but to put people in danger is not the way to go about fixing it.”

The FAA will take appeals of its closure decisions through March 13 and will make the final decisions March 18. Sixteen additional towers are slated for closure at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Katie Johnston can be reached at kjohnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.
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