The FAA announced Friday it will close 149 regional airport control towers because of forced spending cuts, and two airports in Eastern Carolina are on the list.
The FAA confirmed that Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern and the Kinston Regional Jetport will lose their traffic control towers. The four-week, phased closure of the 149 control towers will begin on April 7.
All of the affected airports will remain open, according to the FAA. Pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency with no help from ground controllers. That's something they are trained to do, but airport directors have raised concerns about the potential impact on safety.
In an accompanying statement, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency will take steps to ensure safe operations at the affected airports.
The FAA had been expected to announce the closure of 189 low or moderate-volume towers staffed by contractors, but 40 of those towers have been spared. Before Friday's announcement, the FAA said it would consider keeping a tower open if the airport convinces the agency it is in the "national interest" to do so.
By congressional mandate, the FAA must cut nearly $600 million from its nearly $48 billion budget this fiscal year. Because the majority of its 47,000 employees are air traffic controllers, it is impossible to cut its budget without affecting controllers, the agency said.
Currently, Pitt-Greenville Airport in Greenville and Albert J. Ellis Airport in Jacksonville operate without air traffic controllers.