Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gary/Chicago International Airport (KGYY), Gary, Indiana: Possible tower closing has Allegiant looking at options

Allegiant airline will undertake a seasonal suspension of flights from Gary/Chicago International Airport to Orlando/Sanford International Airport from April 15 to June 5.

The hiatus will be similar to the six week suspension of Gary flights that took place from Sept. 6 to Oct. 18. The airline at that time imposed flight suspensions at about half its airports because of low seasonal demand.

Reservations still can be made at the airline's website for flights before and after the spring suspension.

Allegiant airline will make decisions on a "case-by-case basis" on whether to keep flying to airports such as Gary/Chicago International, where control towers may close because of federal sequestration budget cuts.

"There are many factors at play, and we will make operations decisions on a case-by-case basis that are in the best interest of safety, above all else," Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said in an email to The Times.

Allegiant currently operates at a small number of airports without control towers. At the same time, it has found it has had to cease operations in the past at some that lack towers, Wheeler said.

Gary Interim Director Steve Landry told the Airport Authority on Monday if the federal budget cuts kick in Friday, the control tower will close while the airport will remain open. He said he could not predict if closing the tower would keep any planes away.

Gary is currently the only airport in Northwest Indiana with its own control tower, which closes from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day.

Planes continue to land at the Gary airport even when the tower is closed, using procedures in place for landing without it and maintaining contact with air traffic control centers in the Chicago region as they approach, said Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis.

"Life does not stop when there is no one in the tower," Davis said. "Would we miss it? Definitely."

The Federal Aviation Administration has released a list of more than 200 control towers it is considering closing if the sequester kicks in, which includes Gary and five other Indiana airports. The agency has not said it will definitely close them.

Allegiant flies from Gary to Orlando/Sanford International Airport on Sundays and Thursdays, with departure both days at 10:05 a.m.

Allegiant CEO Maury Gallagher told the business publication Vegas Inc last year that Allegiant pulled out of Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport in Colorado because of growing safety concerns related to the fact the airport did not have a tower.

Although Allegiant serves some small airports without control towers, Gallagher pointed out the skies around Fort Collins-Loveland airport were filled with enough general aviation planes that it was a safety concern for the airline.


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