By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The control tower at Enid Woodring Regional Airport will not be closed as the result of sequestration budget cuts, Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday.
The FAA released a final list Friday of 149 air traffic control facilities that will close at small airports around the country beginning in early April. Four Oklahoma airports were on the closure list — Stillwater, Lawton, Norman and Wiley Post in Oklahoma City. Ardmore’s tower also was spared.
When the original list of towers targeted for closure was released Feb. 22, Woodring was on it. But that news sparked an effort by local and state officials to convince FAA of Woodring tower’s importance to the mission at Vance Air Force Base.
Airport officials were given until March 13 to make their case to the FAA that their facility should remain open because it was in the “national interest” to do so. Woodring is used by Vance T-1 and T-6 pilots for off-site training operations, as well as a place to land in case of emergencies.
“Woodring goes unnoticed by a lot of people, but 40 percent of T-1 and T-6 work from Vance is done there,” said Mike Cooper, city of Enid military liaison and chairman of Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission. Woodring, Vance and OSMPC all submitted letters to the FFA.
“It is easy to see why we were able to prove keeping Woodring open was in the national interest,” Cooper said. “It has such a great impact on the mission at Vance.”
Dan Ohnesorge, Woodring airport manager, expressed relief upon hearing the news.
“It was a matter of explaining our situation here between us, the Air Force, Mike Cooper and our delegation in Washington,” said Ohnesorge. “We were all successful in making that story well-known.”
Part of that story, Ohnesorge, is that Vance aircraft use Woodring for some 5,000 instrument approaches each year.
“They need other airports to be able to shoot practices and approaches,” said Ohnesorge, former vice wing commander at Vance. “I think the FAA recognized that.”
Cooper credited Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe and Reps. Frank Lucas and Tom Cole for their help in the effort to continue funding to keep Woodring’s tower manned with air traffic control contract personnel from Robinson Aviation. Officials at Vance and at Air Education and Training Command headquarters in San Antonio and at Department of Defense also played a role, he said.
“Their involvement weighed heavily on this,” he said. “They recognize the importance of Woodring airport to the mission at Vance. It is a great training asset, and it helps the Air Force reduce costs and gives them increased mission capability.”
Had FAA decided not to continue air traffic control services at Woodring, Vance’s operations there would have been restricted and civilian traffic would have had to clear themselves for landing.
“From a pilot’s perspective it is always better to have a controller in the tower,” said Ohnesorge.
There are some 36,000 aircraft operations annually at Woodring.