ETX airports could face air traffic control tower closure - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

ETX airports could face air traffic control tower closure

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TYLER (KYTX) - 75 percent of the FAA's budget for control towers has been cut, possibly shutting down control towers at small and medium airports across the country.

East Texas Regional Airport in Longview and Tyler Pounds Regional airport have received notice they could be on the list.

The city of Tyler received notification of the possibility of closure.

If it happened, control towers at other nearby airports would handle the job.

Pilots we spoke to say could lead to problems, and passengers say they're most concerned about safety.

Before a plane takes off or lands, there's discussion between the pilots, and air traffic control.

But what happens if they're not on site and instead landing planes from Shreveport or Dallas?

"If you don't have eyes on the ground watching what's happening, the machines can't tell what the planes are doing as they come in," says Stephen Gass, a passenger.

Gass worries about safety.

"Just not safe, not having someone in the tower to make split second decisions," says Gass.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it will close 173 control towers in small and mid-sized locations.

"For safety reasons, they are an integral part of what we do," says Jed Swink, a corporate pilot.

Swink has been a corporate pilot for 20 years.

He says having controlled air-space is important for knowing weather reports, ground conditions, location of other plans in the sky and even landing.

"Two towers this close would be difficult to have both closed. Be very difficult," says Swink.

In part it does come down to safety.

Controllers have a bird's eye view of the entire airport, from the terminal to the hangars, and even the runway.

"Pilots do the job in the same regard the tower does," says Swink.

Swink says there are times when the towers are closed and pilots have to talk with each other for all the same information.

He says it's not unsafe, but it's better to have someone in the tower.

Without having a set of eyes on the runway, it means more responsibility for those in the cockpit.

And it keeps some passengers on standby about flying.

"Not out of here I wouldn't," says Gass.

Now the tower at Tyler Pounds is shut down from 10 p.m. To 6:30 a.m.

Flights do take off and land in that time.

That uncontrolled air space is when pilot communication becomes so important.

Contract workers that run this tower here.

But FAA employees are told to expect furloughs, that would likely mean some delays for air travelers.

Closures are supposed to begin April 7th.

Radio control for towers closed would be directed to the next closest larger city like Shreveport or Dallas.

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