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Spirit: Flights will go on even if tower closes at Palmer airport

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Spirit Airlines Inc. said Thursday it plans to operate its normal schedule of flights at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity, even if the control tower would close because of $85 billion in federal budget cuts that will take effect if President Obama and Congress do not reach a deal on Friday.

“While we wait to see the full impact, if any, of government spending cuts, which may close certain air traffic control towers, Spirit is planning to operate a normal schedule at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport,” Spirit said in a statement.

Spirit operates flights between Arnold Palmer Regional and Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and Orlando and Fort. Lauderdale, Fla.

The Federal Aviation Administration said last week that if the control tower at Arnold Palmer Regional would close because of a sequestration of federal funds, Pittsburgh International Airport would handle air traffic control services.

The airport authority has safety procedures in place to operate the airport without a control tower, said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which manages the airport. The control tower operates from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but the airport remains open for flights when the tower is closed, Monzo said.

Spirit is authorized by the FAA to operate at Arnold Palmer Regional when the control tower is closed, the Florida-based airline said.

“The airline follows FAA-approved procedures to ensure safe operations without a control tower,” Spirit said.

An FAA spokeswoman, who declined to be identified, said she did not know when the control tower would be closed in the event of a sequestration. She said she could not provide “airport-specific information” about potential closures of facilities.

Five employees hired by Midwest Air Traffic Control Services Inc. of Overland, Kan., for air traffic control services at Arnold Palmer Regional would be affected by the closing. A spokesman for Midwest said the company may not learn until next week when a closing could occur.

The airport has fielded calls from concerned passengers, Monzo said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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