Federal budget cuts mean towers at a number of Oklahoma airports will shut down on Sunday, but one tower is being spared.
OU President David Boren says the university will provide bridge funding to keep the tower at Max Westheimer airport open until budget issues are resolved.
"OU has one of the top aviation education programs across the nation and internationally. It is one of only 29 programs accredited by the AABI (Aviation Accreditation Board International)," said Boren. "The OU program is expected to continue to grow rapidly. Our first concern is the safety of our student pilots. Max Westheimer is one of the busiest airports in Oklahoma. It has almost 60,000 take-offs and landings annually, almost half the number of Oklahoma City's Will Rogers Airport."
Boren also said that maintaining a tower-controlled airport is of great importance to the community and is an important contribution by the University to Norman's economic development.
The funds will be used to staff the tower from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Ken Carson, Director of OU's Aviation program released this statement,
"The department and most importantly, our students are very pleased by the support of the University and the announcement by President Boren. We have always viewed our flight operations at Westheimer as a holistic safety management approach, and air traffic control services are key to safe, orderly and efficient operations for both OU aircraft and the General Aviation aircraft which use Westheimer."
John Woods, President and CEO of the Norman Chamber of Commerce, released the following statement,
"The University's and President Boren's commitment to the Norman community has always been above and beyond. Providing bridge funding for the contract tower program at Max Westheimer Airport proves that commitment to not only the crucial flight programs at OU but for the direct economic benefits our airport provides Norman. This is just another example of the great partnership Norman has with the University of Oklahoma and why we are grateful for the OU presence in our community."