We've heard the word sequester a lot over the last few months. Those are the automatic cuts to federal spending because there's no deficit reduction deal. The cuts are across the board.
We've got a new warning, a local one. That the $600 million the Federal Aviation Administration stands to lose, could be a hit to air safety. Air traffic control towers are scheduled to close.
There are 250 contract towers in the United States. Six in Illinois, 9 in Wisconsin. Nearly 190 are to be closed on April 7th, including the one at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville.
"365 days a year, 15 hours a day, we control, separate aircraft, issue safety alerts. Annually we are controlling 57,000 plus aircraft operations, " says Contract Tower Manager Earl Arrowood.
If the Janesville tower closes, Arrowood and the other employees would all loose their jobs. Arrowood worries about what closing the control tower could mean for him, for the airport, and for air safety.
"If we leave, what happens is those 30 to 50 operations per hour are on their own to relay their positions to other aircraft so they avoid each other," says Arrowood.
He adds, the impact is not just localized to the Illinois/Wisconsin border, he believes the closures could effect the whole nation.
"The FAA just put out a report November 2012, and this is a report financed by the FAA, and the report has said, that in the first year alone, the taxpayers will loose 13 billion dollars due to aircraft accidents, loss of life, loss of property if these contract towers close. At Janesville, it's not of question of if something will happen. It's a question of when something will happen," says Arrowood.
There is less than a month left before the closures take effect. Some senators are working to stop that from happening.
Arrowood hopes more senators will support the Moran Amendment, which would keep the FAA from closing many of the contract control towers. "And if that amendment passes, they will put us on the same level field as the FAA. Right now the FAA is closing 5% of their towers, where the contract towers are closing 75% of theirs," he says.
Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk is among those who are voicing their support of the Moran Amendment.
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