Pilots Have "Significant Concerns" About Losing Control Towers

By: Stephanie Ando Email
By: Stephanie Ando Email

In less than three weeks, the control tower at Easterwood Airport could fall victim to the Sequester, if airport officials can't find an alternative to federal funding.

Easterwood is one of 19 airports in Texas, and nearly 200 airports across the country, where funding from the Federal Aviation Administration will be cut off on April 7.

Controllers say that more than 200 planes come and go from Easterwood Airport on any given day, so it would be very dangerous to not have eyes on the ground anymore.

Some pilots agree.

“When I came in, there were four people in front of me when I was landing and I couldn't see any of them. So I was counting on the controller to let me know that they were there,” said John Gill, a pilot who had just landed at Easterwood.

However, pilots could be on their own in a few weeks.

“We never dreamed the day would come when FAA would take away the funding for the air traffic controllers to man those towers,” said David Fulton, Director of TXDOT Aviation Division.

The FAA is closing 75% of control towers across the country in order to cut $600 million from its budget.

Airport officials say closing towers could lead to financial and safety problems. That's why managers of affected airports are scrambling to find money to keep their control towers open.

“I don't know the obvious solution. This is not the obvious place to cut, because there’s safety involved,” said Gill.

Control towers at larger airports will have to manage the traffic at the surrounding airports if the cuts happen. Tower responsibilities for Easterwood Airport would go to Houston's Bush Airport, which controllers say will create take-off and landing delays.

“Houston can control you until you're within 3 or 4 miles of the airport. Then you have to talk to the pilots in the air and you can't necessarily see them. It’s pretty hard to see and airplane if you're in the air,” said Gill.

Five controllers work at the tower at Eastwood Airport. Almost all of them have working as air traffic controllers for over 30 years.

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