Delegation to FAA Administrator: New FAA Bill Gives Agency Flexibility to Maintain Midnight Shift for Fargo Air Traffic Control Tower

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer yesterday sent a letter to the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Michael Huerta, calling for the continuation of Hector International Airport’s 24-hour Air Traffic Control status.

The delegation told the administrator that legislation passed last week to avert air traffic controller furloughs across the country also gives the FAA the flexibility they need to retain the midnight shift at the Fargo air traffic control tower. They wrote:

“Hector International Airport is the only 24-hour ATC serviced airport in North Dakota. Accordingly, this airport provides emergency relief for flight diversions, and the runway serves as a primary emergency divert field for any aircraft transiting over our state. It is not uncommon to see flights divert to Fargo when Minneapolis or Winnipeg experiences severe weather.

“In addition to providing emergency relief for flights, this ATC airport is an important part of regional emergency health care services. Sanford Health, the largest medical facility in the region, operates one King Air and one EC-145 helicopter in Fargo on a 24/7/365 basis in air medical operations. The Fargo control tower being a 24/7 operation increases the level of safety for the operations conducted.

“We believe that reducing the overnight hours at the Hector International Airport would limit the airport’s ability to provide the necessary services to the surrounding communities. While we are aware of the difficult budget situation facing the FAA, we recognize that Congress has given the FAA improved budget flexibility through the passage of the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013. With this greater flexibility, the FAA has sufficient resources to maintain 24-hour Air Traffic Control (ATC) status at the Hector International Airport. Accordingly, we request that FAA maintain 24-hour ATC status at the Hector International Airport as part of its review.”

Hector International Airport serves as an emergency diversion point for nearby cities experiencing severe weather and assists with air medical operations in the region. The Fargo tower was listed among those facing a possible reduction in hours of operation.