Updated below with an explanation from Wilson:
"Congresswoman Frederica Wilson successfully postpones closure of the North Perry airport tower," reads a press release today from Miami Representative today.
Wilson's press release states that after her month-long campaign to save the tower, she was notified this morning by the FAA that the tower had been granted a temporary reprieve. She omitted that this was a decision by the FAA to delay closing 149 towers across the county.
Yesterday, Wilson held a presser at the tower to bash the sequester and emphasized the Republicans' role in it without mentionning that along with both parties she voted for the Budget Control Act that led to the sequester. Broward County had agreed to backfill most of the FAA cuts to maintain the majority of the hours at the tower.
So was there anything special about the protests by Wilson that convinced the FAA to grant that reprieve until June 15?
We couldn't get a direct answer to that question from the FAA. But an important reason is noted in the FAA's press release: the plan had led to legal challenges. Airport operators in multiple states including Florida had filed lawsuits and Republican and Democratic politicians nationwide decried the cuts, according to news reports.
"This additional time will allow the agency to attempt to resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions," the FAA press release stated. "As part of the tower closure implementation process, the agency continues to consult with airports and operators and review appropriate risk mitigations. Extending the transition deadline will give the FAA and airports more time to execute the changes to the National Airspace System."
We spoke with Wilson directly this evening to ask why she was taking credit when the FAA cited this as a national decision based on legal challenges.
She said she spoke with Roderick D. Hall, FAA Assistant Administrator for Government and Industry Affairs, this morning about the cuts. The FAA had planned to shut down North Perry airport’s tower this weekend -- Broward’s funding wasn’t going to kick in until later this month.
“We gave them a threat,” Wilson said. “The threat was if they came to shut the tower down I would personally be there to stop them.”
She said Hall called back later in the day and told her about the decision to delay the closures.
“He said ‘Congresswoman go ahead, you can take the credit. It's from pressure, pressure pressure from Congress people like yourself,” Wilson said. “He didn’t mention anything about lawsuits.”
The funding cut was intended to help the FAA meet its $637 million cut due to sequestration.