Trenton-Mercer Airport's air traffic control tower will close next month due to federal budget cuts, yet the airport's main carrier said Friday that won't affect its plans to add five new routes.

Frontier Airlines planes (Facebook)

Frontier Airlines already offers service from the Ewing airport to New Orleans and the Florida cities of Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa. Earlier this year, it announced it would add nonstop service to Atlanta, Chicago-Midway, Columbus, Ohio, Detroit and Raleigh, N.C. Frontier spokeswoman Kate O'Malley said the company plans to add the new destinations on April 8.

The closings of 149 control towers under federal contract will be phased in over four weeks beginning on April 7, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday.

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said the closure raises security concerns but that the airport will continue operations as usual. The airport handles about 85,000 takeoffs and landings annually, according to Hughes.

"This news causes us great concern, and the implications are many, from the safety of our airspace to the possible detrimental impact to our economy that has only recently begun to see signs of recovery," Hughes said.

The FAA said the tower closures will not force the shutdown of any airports, but they will require pilots using them to coordinate takeoffs and landings over a shared radio frequency with no help from ground controllers.

Ray Adams, an air traffic controller and union official at Newark Liberty International Airport, said the closures would affect safety.

"The United States has built the safest air traffic control system, and by removing the skilled, expert controllers in that tower, safety will be diminished," he said.

The FAA also said local communities can opt to assume the costs of on-site air traffic control services. Hughes said the county can't afford the estimated $600,000 monthly cost of operating the control tower, which includes eight air traffic controllers.

Hughes said he would be willing to talk to the state to see if they could assist. The state Department of Transportation had no comment on the closure Friday, citing the fact that the airport is run by the county.

 

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