The air traffic control tower at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe will close, along with 148 others at small airports nationwide, as the Federal Aviation Administration cuts $637 million from its budget by November.
The closures will not force airports to shut down, but pilots will now coordinate takeoffs and landings by radio without ground controllers’ help.
“We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta said in a news release.
Harrisburg International Airport (HIA) is doing well and traffic is up. With the price of fuel, many airlines are looking at the cost-effectiveness of their 50 passenger regional jet fleets. With todays fuel prices it has become more cost-effective to fly larger planes. Fortunately, HIA is equipped to handle larger planes.
There are 1.8 million people within an hour of HIA which makes this a sizable market. Because of this, many carriers flying into the HIA will simply start using larger planes.
Delta has seen at 50 percent increase in traffic on their DFW to HIA route due to the Marcellus Shale gas industry. Harrisburg is the hub of Pennsylvania’s state government and home to large companies like Hershey, which use air travel for business.
Airport officials are stating American Airlines bankruptcy filing will not impact travelers flying out of HIA. What American Airlines decides to do with its regional airlines will determine what the future holds for HIA, not the bankruptcy filing.
Smaller market airport like State College and Venango Regional will most likely be under scrutiny by airlines as they decide whether flying from these locations remains cost-effective. Can these smaller markets generate enough passengers to fill 70 – 100 seat planes? Time will tell.