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How Congress Keeps Zombie Air Towers Open After Airlines Leave

Bloomberg News obtained internal documents from the Federal Aviation Administration to identify the 102 air traffic towers and radar rooms that don’t meet the agency’s own criteria for 24-hour staffing. Reporter Alan Levin conducted interviews with former agency officials and examined hundreds of pages of records to show how U.S. lawmakers pressure officials to keep underutilized facilities in operation, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

Flights Fade Away

FAA-staffed airports with the biggest traffic declines, 2000-2010

Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg News

Airplanes with their engines removed are parked at Michigan's Willow Run airport, one of the 102 facilities that don't meet FAA criteria for 24-hour staffing. The cargo facility has lost 54.5 percent of its traffic since 2000, and now averages about one landing or takeoff an hour after 1 a.m.

   Pontiac, Mich.
Flint, Mich.
Lansing, Mich.    
   Concord, Calif.
        Mansfield, Ohio
Caldwell, N.J.
Huntington, W.Va.
   Roanoke, Va.
Covington, Ky.
Fort Wayne, Ind.   
St. Louis   
Springfield, Ill.   
Peoria, Ill.   
Waterloo, Iowa   
Fort Worth, Texas   
Waco, Texas   
New Orleans
   Orlando, Fla.

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