Which 200 airports will lose their control towers?

Sequester budget cuts are about to hit small and regional facilities nationwide. Pilots will have to fend for themselves.

By Bruce Kennedy Mar 18, 2013 12:59PM

An American Eagle jet taxis to a gate past the control tower after landing at the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, Ill. on March 12, 2013 (© Seth Perlman/AP)The agonizing wait continues for more than 200 small and regional airports around the country. Later this week, the Federal Aviation Administration will announce which air traffic control towers will be scheduled to shut down next month as part of $600 million in federal sequestration budget cuts required at the FAA for this fiscal year.

That announcement was supposed to be made on Monday, but it was pushed back to Friday after a huge number of appeals from targeted airports and their communities flooded in.

The FAA says most of the affected airports will remain open, with some halting operations only at night. And according to the Associated Press, pilots using those airports will be responsible for their own safety and will need to communicate with each other.

Some of those regional airports are quite busy. About 200 planes arrive and leave Easterwood Airport, outside College Station, Texas, daily. And pilot John Gil told KBTX-TV he's very concerned about not having someone manage air traffic there.

"When I came in, there were four people in front of me when I was landing and I couldn't see any of them," he said on Sunday, "so I was counting on the controller to let me know that they were there."

Trenton-Mercer Airport, one of three commercial airports in New Jersey, might also have to function with an empty control tower. Frontier Airlines began flying out of Trenton-Mercer late last year -- and several corporations, including Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) -- use the facility for business flights.

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes says any cuts will not only affect the regional economy around Trenton-Mercer but will force the airport to operate at a slower pace due to the New Jersey area's heavy air traffic.

"It will lead to delays in the system," Hughes said in an interview with NJ.com. "We will have to rely on Philly FAA to guide planes into Trenton and then use visual flight rules. Clearly it's going to change the way we're able to use Trenton-Mercer airport and obviously they prefer to have air traffic control towers at the airport working.”

Most of the control towers expected to close are run by private contractors under the FAA's decades-old Contract Tower Program. Last month, the U.S. Contract Tower Association called on Congress and the Obama Administration to find a way around these cuts.

"The Contract Tower Program has a well-established record of success in enhancing air safety and efficiency in communities across the country in a cost-effective manner to taxpayers," association Executive Director J. Spencer Dickerson said in a press statement.

"The prospect of closing nearly 195 contract towers nationwide along with 43 FAA-staffed towers because of sequestration is inconceivable given the very real impact it would have nationwide," he added, "and yet it appears to be a real possibility."

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Mar 18, 2013 3:31PM
Why not cancel the checks written to Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, Mexico, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Kenya, and Jordan.   That would save us over $1 Trillion this year alone.
Mar 18, 2013 8:22PM
I will bet that the prez doesn't cut his staff, secret service, air force one usage, and congress doesn't cut their budget, pay, staff, benefits  one bit.
Mar 18, 2013 1:41PM

Sounds like a lot of saber rattling.  Isn't this what the president wanted?  The reason you haven't heard much from Obama in the last week or so is because his "painful as possible" plan is being implemented...slowly and quietly.  As usual, the liberal press isn't paying attention.  He'll blame the Republican Party very soon.  It's what he does.

Mar 18, 2013 2:37PM
If Obama doesn't get his way - he'll make us pay.
Mar 18, 2013 8:56PM
As a tax payer I understand my tax dollars supporting the FAA in general, but what I don't understand is why my tax dollars are paying for the controllers in small neighborhood/community airports that are for the most part utilized by private pilots, corporate jets. If these towers need to be manned then let the people who are using the airport pay for their salaries, when a plane helicopter etc lands and people either disembark or embark let them pay a fee that will ultimately pay for the costs associated with the running of the airport including the employees manning the tower. I for one don't agree with having my tax dollars pay costs associated with private airports. I do agree with my tax dollars supporting a public commercial airport, why, because I use it and should pay my share.
Mar 19, 2013 11:48PM
I don't know MSN. Why the hell don't you tell me which 200 airports will be closed. Jesus Christ, I'm such an idiot for clicking on these "news stories" expceting reporting.
Mar 18, 2013 7:05PM
The answer here is simple.  Make the cost to land a plane at the airport add up to what it costs to have the people in the tower.  Those who use the service can support it.  Those who do not should not be forced to pay for this, it is not required, just convenient.  Then let those who wish to use the convenient air port pay for the personnel.
Amazing that those who can afford their own planes want those who can't to help pay for the air traffic controllers. 

ali gator     chomp   chomp   chomp
Mar 19, 2013 8:49AM
I will bet the farm that non of the places michelle wants to go on vacation this year, will be closed.
Mar 18, 2013 11:40PM

Should of had the business man run things, instead of the socialist crooked lawyer that got an education that you paid for!

If only voter faud was not real.

Mar 19, 2013 5:39PM
All these "politicians" are ****s! Quit scaring the public, make cuts where they should be! Let me check my savings account. Oh, its not overdrawn by Trillions! Joe public knows how to control their spending, now Mr Obama, prove to us you actually can understand that you can't spend more than you have and that no one in the country wants to pay more for nothing they will ever get back ! I like Steve in Colorado, cut out the checks to every foreign nation out there! How can we loan, borrowed money anyway????? People on both sides are giving up on politics!  I see why the goverment is stocking up on ammo for homeland security!!!!!!!
Mar 19, 2013 4:51PM

There is no doubt in my mind that we will see an aircraft accident sooner or later as a result of this bad situation brought about by our "elected officials" in Washington paying more attention to padding their own pockets and worrying about reelection than in doing their jobs.  I hope that when that accident happens, the families of those lost will sue each and every Congress man and woman for dereliction of duty and directly causing this ridiculous situation.

Mar 18, 2013 4:38PM
Live near a regional airport? Time to move! That won't be birds falling on your roof.
Mar 19, 2013 5:01PM
Commercial air traffic flies in (and out) of airports with part-time towers as well as many non-tower airports all the time and are not "falling out of the skies". The issue is going to be delays in the system. The pilot quoted in this article has, apparently, never flown out of a non-tower airport and doesn't understand the "see and be seen" attitude and radio communications that should be taught to and learned by ALL pilots.
Mar 19, 2013 5:16PM
So, which 200 airports are being closed? Article doesn't answer its own headline.
Also there are at least 4 airports in NJ not 3 which handle jet traffic which I think needs to be a consideration just because of their speed compared to the little guys up there. Newark, Atlantic City, Mercer and Teterboro
Mar 19, 2013 2:17AM
What , the republicans are innocent in this ? I guess we can have the middle class, the poor and the disabled pay the bills. Yaw why not?
Mar 19, 2013 1:08PM
are we awaiting another air disaster????????
Mar 19, 2013 8:33PM
This all makes sense to me;  Let's cut funding for critical safety features of  airports while we still fund Obama's multi-million dollar vacations.  I hope all you morons that voted for this joker are happy now.
Mar 20, 2013 5:26AM
We need to stop all foreign aide(giveaway) now.  Pull of our troops out of any war and the foreign people kill each other on their own.  They have been doing it for 2000 years.
Mar 18, 2013 2:34PM
Whaaaaaaaaaaa !    Whaaaaaaaaaaa!  Whaaaaaaaaaa !

Mar 20, 2013 9:05AM
Samuel L Clemens aka Mark Twain  called congress the insane asylum which  is more true  today  than it was in his  era.
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