(USA TODAY) The Federal Aviation Administration said today that it would delay the closures of 149 air traffic control towers until June 15 to resolve legal challenges filed by more than a dozen airports.
The closures, which were to begin Sunday, were announced as a way to cut $33 million in spending by Sept. 30 to meet budget-reduction mandates required of nearly every federal agency this year.
FAA pulls air traffic controllers from two local airports
The FAA said in a release today that the delay will let the agency "resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions."
Peter Kirsch, a Denver lawyer representing nine airports that were to lose their towers, told USA TODAY this morning that airports are seeking an emergency court order to block the closures from happening. Lawsuits by numerous airports have been consolidated and are being handled by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in California.
Kirsch said the expected that the court would rule on April 12 at the earliest.
"This has been a complex process and we need to get this right," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports."