The closure of 149 federally contracted airport towers has been delayed until at least Sept. 30, but that isn’t stopping one flight school from using its ejection seat to bail out of the West Valley.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced last month that the towers, including those at Phoenix Goodyear and Glendale airports, will remain open until the end of the fiscal year.
Originally, they were scheduled to begin closing April 7 as part of $637 million in cuts required to be made by the Federal Aviation Administration under sequestration, and then it was delayed until June 15.
The recently enacted Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 allowed the FAA to transfer sufficient funds to end employee furloughs and keep the towers open for now, FAA Public Affairs Manager Ian Gregor said.
Regardless, Oxford Aviation Academy announced the closure of its flight school at Phoenix Goodyear Airport. The school will be shut down around the end of October and moved to Falcon Field Airport in Mesa, officials said.
“We have two flight schools that are very close to each other,” said Pascale Alpha, a spokeswoman for CAE, the parent company of Oxford. “We are consolidating our flight academy locations in Goodyear and Mesa in order to better serve our customers, improve the efficiency of our flight training organizations and help us meet the long-term and growing demand for aviation professionals.”
The Goodyear school trains about 100 students. Current students will finish their training in the West Valley and then no new classes will start at the campus. It employs about 30 people, all of whom will transfer to the new site, Alpha said.
The Falcon Field facility trains students to earn their beginning pilot’s license and also offers further instruction for people interested in an aviation career. It has about 200 students and 165 employees, Alpha said.
In May 2012, Oxford Aviation was bought by CAE, a Canadian manufacturer of simulation technologies, modeling technologies and training services to airlines, aircraft manufacturers and defense customers.
Oxford is a subtenant of Airline Training Center Arizona, another flight school at Phoenix Goodyear Airport.
It leases office and housing space, and also provides aircraft maintenance, said Matthias Kippenberg, president of ATCA.
Officials for Phoenix, which owns the airport, said Oxford accounts for about 55,000 annual takeoffs and landings a year, or roughly 40 percent of total flights at the airport.
“Basically, it means that we lose a tenant we worked with for six years, which is sad, of course, in a way,” Kippenberg said. “We obviously need to find a replacement client to use the infrastructure.”
He added that they’re currently in discussions with other flight schools to possibly move into the facilities next year.
Airline Training Center Arizona has been around since 1970, and trains about 240 to 300 pilots a year for Lufthansa German Airlines, Kippenberg said.
“This is a great location for what we want to do, which is pilot training in good weather conditions,” he said. “So we definitely want to stay and are working very closely with the city of Phoenix to see what could be a Plan B. Of course, we’re hopeful the FAA will continue to fund the tower after September.”
Emily McCann can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NewsbyEmily.