Federal cuts could force closure of 3 metro airport towers

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

Across-the-board federal budget cuts set to take effect March 1 would force the FAA to close more than 100 airport control towers nationwide.
KENNESAW, Ga. —

Channel 2 Action News has confirmed the Federal Aviation Administration could close the control towers at three busy metro area airports if congress does not cut a deal to avoid across-the-board budget cuts.

On the list are Gwinnett County's Briscoe Field, Fulton County's Brown Field, and McCollum Field in Cobb County.

Channel 2's Aaron Diamant went to McCullom Field outside Kennesaw Friday. The airport handles more than 60,000 flights a year.

Without it, the airport manager told Diamant that number goes way down. Officials said it's a big deal for the airport and those others in the same boat if Congress doesn't act fast.

"The idea that we are just doing this to create some kind of horrific scare tactic is nonsense," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood said Friday.

Lahood said across-the-board federal budget cuts set to take effect March 1 would force the FAA to close more than 100 airport control towers nationwide.

"Well the first thing that goes through my mind is how would we operate if that would occur?" said McCullom Field Airport Manager Karl Von Hagel.

He said the airport would still run 24-7, but "the biggest impacts would be the obvious decrease in the margin of safety," meaning more pilots may choose to land at other airports, plus longer wait times for planes trying to take off and land.

"It's all going to affect the bottom line," Von Hagel said.

A potentially huge financial hit for the public airports as well as Fulton County's Brown Field and Briscoe Field in Gwinnett County, both also on the FAA's "could close" list.

"It will not be a positive impact. We will not get more airplanes because the control tower is closed. The only way it can go is down," Von Hagel said.

Air traffic that Von Hagel said could divert to the already busy Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where Lahood said FAA workers there, and around the country, would face a series of furlough days leaving passengers and pilots dealing with delays.

"It will affect everybody," Von Hagel said.

The deadline for Congress to cut a deal to avoid all this is March 1. If not several air traffic control towers could close in April.

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