The Federal Aviation Administration said it would delay the closing of 149 air-traffic control towers until June 15.
The FAA was planning to close towers at 24 small airports on Sunday. Another 46 were to close on April 24, and the final 79 would have closed on May 5. All of the airports would remain open but without the controllers who keep airplanes a safe distance apart and notify arriving pilots of runway hazards, such as wildlife or ice.
The delay will provide time both to resolve legal challenges and for dozens of communities to work out potential plans to take over funding of the towers, said USA Today. It also allows time for Congress to consider providing money to keep the towers open over the long term.
The towers were being closed to help the FAA meet budget-cutting requirements faced by nearly every federal agency under a process called sequestration. The FAA must cut $637 million in spending by Sept. 30. Closing the towers was to save $33 million.
The 149 towers are located mostly at small airports that cater to private airplanes and have limited commercial service. Only about three dozen have scheduled passenger flights, says USA Today.