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March 25, 2013

FAA closing Beverly Airport control tower

BEVERLY — The air traffic control tower at Beverly Municipal Airport is among the 149 nationwide that will close due to the federal sequestration budget cuts, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced.

Beverly Airport manager Robert Mezzetti said the tower, which has been in operation since 1977, will be shut down some time after April 7, when the FAA will start closing towers in phases.

Airport officials were informed in early March that the tower could close, but the official word did not come until Friday.

“This is all still a shock to me,” said Mezzetti, who, in a March 17 letter that appeared in the Times, urged readers to write to Sens. Elizabeth Warren and William Cowan, Congressman John Tierney, and Aviation Subcommittee member Congressman Michael Capuano to “urge them to identify other savings in FAA’s air traffic budget before they close our tower.”

The closing of five Massachusetts airport towers, however, came despite a plea by the state’s congressional delegation to keep them open. In a letter to the FAA, the delegation said the closings “will jeopardize the safety of the flying public as well as that of residents within a certain proximity to these airports, have a negative impact on regional economics and threaten our military readiness.”

“I am so disappointed in our government,” Mezzetti said Friday.

The FAA said it is closing 149 towers that operate under federal contracts. The agency said it decided to keep open 24 towers that had been slated to close “because doing so would have had a negative impact on the national interest.”

Beverly Airport is among five airports in Massachusetts where towers will close. The others are in Lawrence, Worcester, Norwood and New Bedford. The airport in Westfield is among the 24 that were spared.

Mezzetti said the airport will still be safe without the control tower, “but not as safe because we always had that extra set of eyes with the tower.”

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