Easterwood's Air Traffic Control Center Could Close If Auto Spending Cuts Happen

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Easterwood Airport's control tower could be closed if Congress can't work out an agreement on budget reductions.

Air Traffic Control centers at 25 smaller Texas Airports could also close or see hours reduced.

Neither United or American Airlines would tell News 3 if the potential cuts would affect their operations here, but most regional carriers do fly into airports that don't have control towers.

Pilots can also communicate with each other or air traffic controllers in other regions.

It's a busy start to the weekend at College Station's Easterwood Airport.

Later this year the airport's control tower could be closed as the Federal Aviation Administration looks at ways to cut $600 million.

"You cut the wrong thing and something bad may happen," said Carl Sharon.

He is a flight instructor for the A&M Flying Club, which is unaffiliated with the university.

He was surprised to learn about potential cuts here as well as other regional airports across the state.

"When the tower's not in operation we work with a protocol called see and avoid and self-announce, so we're responsible for seeing the other planes and avoid them and then we announce on the radio our positions on the airport," Sharon explained.

Steven Post is a student pilot and studies Aerospace Engineering at A&M. He hopes the tower will stay open too.

"Yeah I'd be surprised at Easterwood. There's a lot of aircraft come in here. I know Continental and American Airlines they fly in here and a lot of people for the games. There's a lot of traffic and then make it a lot tougher having to come in and not have anybody tell you kind of what to do," said Post.

It's up to each individual airline to decide whether or not they want to fly into airports that are uncontrolled, but here at Easterwood Airport commercial flights are already coming in after hours. The tower here is open from 8 A.M. to 9 P.M. every day.

"If they cut back on air traffic control services then they'll have pilots that will not have access to that. Therefore the risk starts to go up a little bit," said Sharon.

Both American Airlines and United Airlines referred us to their trade Association, Airlines for America which said in a statement,

"No one wants to see the sequester happen. We appreciate that DOT and FAA have provided us with information about how they are considering implementing these cuts, which appear to share our goal of impacting as few travelers as possible. A4A, FAA and our carriers will be meeting soon to plan for any potential cutbacks. Air transportation is a key driver of our economy, and should not be used as a political football. We urge Congress and the Administration to work together to ensure that the two million customers and 50,000 tons of cargo that fly every day can continue to get to their destinations safely and efficiently."

If Congress doesn't reach an agreement the cuts could start as soon as April.

*Associated Press Story *
Federal officials say air traffic control centers at 25 smaller Texas airports could close or see hours reduced if automatic federal spending cuts take effect next week.

Officials on Friday said travelers should expect delays when the cutbacks begin in April.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the reductions are part of its planning to cope with a spending reduction of $600 million during the rest of the fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30.

The largest airports, such as Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport and Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, are not on FAA's list of potential closures or cutbacks, which mostly affect airports with fewer than 10,000 commercial flights a year.

The Texas air traffic control facilities that could be closed, according to an FAA list: Waco Regional, New Braunfels Municipal, Jack Brooks Regional (Beaumont), Brownsville-South Padre Island International, Easterwood Field (College Station), TSTC (Waco), Lone Star Executive (Houston), Fort Worth Spinks, East Texas Regional (Longview), Arlington Municipal, Grand Prairie Municipal, Georgetown Municipal, San Marcos Municipal, Dallas Executive, Sugar Land Regional, Stinson Municipal (San Antonio), Collin County Regional (McKinney), Tyler Pounds Regional and Victoria Regional.

The Texas facilities that could see overnight shifts eliminated: Abilene control tower, Austin tower, Corpus Christi tower, El Paso tower, Meacham tower (Fort Worth), Lubbock tower.