Grounded: Sequester To Hit Small Airports In A Big Way | KERA News

Grounded: Sequester To Hit Small Airports In A Big Way

Feb 28, 2013

The federal budget cuts under sequestration, effective March 1, will shut down control towers at a number of smaller North Texas airports.  That means pilots will be directing traffic on the runways.

Federal Aviation Administration funds for private contractors that staff the smaller airport control towers disappears under sequestration.

Ken Weigand, director at Collin County Regional Airport in McKinney expects his tower to close April 1st.  

“The airport will continue to operate as it has in the past however I can tell you that our safety of flight is certainly going to be a concern,” Weigand said.

Pilots would be responsible for coordinating aircraft traffic on the runways and taxiways.  Weigand says sometimes that’s no easy job. Collin Regional hosts 83 thousand arrivals and departures a year with a mix of slow moving single engine aircraft along with faster jets and turbo-prop aircraft.  He says you also have to look out for fuel trucks, and maintenance vehicles, too.

Weigand says the smaller city-owned business and general aviation airports likely can’t afford to pick up the cost themselves, and probably shouldn’t.

“You know if we would do that, even though we wound intend to do it temporarily, Washington may say well if you can do it why don’t you just keep doing it, and push that cost down on us," Weigand said.  "It is the Federal Aviation Administration’s responsibility – their number one responsibility – to oversee aviation safety in this country.”  

Dallas Executive Airport, Spinks in Fort Worth, Arlington and Grand Prairie Municipal Airports will also see their control towers empty. Meacham in Fort Worth will have its nighttime hours cut.

Weigand worries safety concerns could cut airport business and hurt the regional economy. Dallas officials share that concern. Executive Airport provides 120 full time jobs and is part of the city’s marketing campaign to attract new business.