(RNN) - The Federal Aviation Administration said it will delay the closure of 149 air traffic control towers at small airports until June.
"This has been a complex process and we need to get this right," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a news release. "Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports."
In March the agency made the decision to keep 24 federal contract towers open that had been previously proposed for closure because doing so would have a negative impact on the national interest, according to an FAA news release.
"We will continue our outreach to the user community to answer any questions and address their concerns about these tower closures," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a news release.
The cuts are result of sequestration – the $85 billion in spending cuts that went into effect on March 1 after Congress did not pass a budget.
The targeted airports for tower closures have 150,000 flight operations annually, and of those, fewer than 10,000 are commercial flights, according to the Associated Press. Along with the tower closures, most of the FAA 47,000 employees, which include tower controllers, will experience furloughs.
Of the $1 billion that will be a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's budget cuts, $637 million will come from the FAA in fiscal year 2013.
With that amount, the contract tower program is facing a 75 percent reduction.
As of Friday, approximately 50 airport authorities and other stakeholders have indicated they may join the FAA's non-Federal Contract Tower program and fund the tower operations themselves.
The FAA will stop funding all 149 towers on June 15 and will close the facilities unless the airports decide to continue operations as a nonfederal contract tower.
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