Cobb Co. considers hiring own air traffic controllers

by: Tony Thomas Updated:

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COBB COUNTY, Ga. —

Cobb County officials are considering hiring their own contract workers to keep the air traffic control tower at McCollum Field open.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced last Friday that McCollum was one of dozens of towers it will close due to budget concerns.

Airport manager Karl Von Hagel estimates the move would cost the county about $500,000 a year and he said he is not sure where the money would
come from.

"We are hoping for the best, we are planning for the worst," Von Hagel said, still holding out some hope the closure will only be temporary.

The airport itself will continue to stay open, but pilots will have to self-regulate and communicate via radios when taking off and landing, without the aid of air traffic controllers. The closure is slated for April 7.

"We can always adjust services, we can adjust personnel. You can make lots of tweaks to that to get the number a lot more manageable," Von Hagel said of the price tag to keep the tower running.

But not all pilots believe the move would be necessary.

"The tower isn't going to affect anything here, not safety-wise," said pilot Marcelo Bessegato.

"If the businesses are willing to pay for it, that would be OK, but I don't think the taxpayers should have to pay for it," said pilot Ralph Connell.

Towers at airports in Athens and Gwinnett County are also slated for closure.

The facility at Fulton County's Charlie Brown Field was spared after
authorities appealed the closure to the FAA. Operations at Hartsfield-Jackson International are not directly affected by the closures.