Sequester cuts could mean fewer eyes on airspace, runways

MARION, IL (KFVS) - If congress fails reach a compromise by Friday to avert deep federal budget cuts there could be fewer eyes and ears watching airport runways.

According to the Department of Transportation, across-the-board sequester cuts would mean the closure of about half of all air-traffic control towers in the country including those in Williamson County, Carbondale and Paducah.

Williamson County Regional Airport manager Doug Kimmel says planes will still take off and land in Marion, but the airspace may be less safe.

"Pilots are taught to operate without a control tower, so the operations at our airports can continue," said Kimmel. "What happens is pilots have to broadcast blindly so-to-speak what they're doing and hope other aircraft are doing the same."

Kimmel says it can be done, but the skies may be less safe at his airport and others around the country.

"It can be done effectively, but it's the human element: someone makes a mistake, someone has the radio on the wrong frequency, or the mechanical element: the radio actually going down," said Kimmel. "While an aircraft is in the air without a controller to be a back-up, safety is going to be jeopardized."

If sequester cuts are allowed to go into effect Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration will be forced to cut $600 million from its budget resulting in the possible shutdown of 238 air traffic control towers.

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