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Sequester Could Impact Airports

One of the sequester budget cuts could cost jobs inside the control towers at Columbia Regional and Jefferson City Airports. Columbia city leaders believe the cuts to the control towers create a safety concern for pilots and passengers because, although no one will be in the tower, flights will still arrive and depart from the airports. Leaders in the Federal Aviation Administration tell ABC 17 News that if lawmakers do not take action, they will have six months to make about $600 million in cuts — impacting a list of 100 control towers to be shut down. They say most of the cuts will come from elimination of shifts in control towers, forcing employees to take temporary unpaid leave, and shutting down small-market traffic control towers like the one at Columbia Regional Airport. City leaders in Columbia say they are worried. “We want to provide safe and reliable and dependable air transportation for central Missouri,” Columbia Public Works Spokesman Steve Sapp said Friday. “That’s what our whole mission is, and by taking out this component, it does take something away from that.” Sapp says that if the control tower is closed, towers out of Springfield or Kansas City will have to take over the flights in mid-Missouri. He believes planes will be able to take off and land without any problems, but there are certain potential hazards — such as birds — that remote radar monitors would not see. Not everyone shares Sapp’s concerns, however. Several congressmen say that these threats of closures are just a scare tactic from the FAA. Sapp says that if the cuts happen, “commercial air traffic and general aviation traffic will have to be more vigilant in the area.” City and airport staff say they are watching the developments closely. Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid says he intends to ask the city council next week to send a letter to local U.S. congressional delegates, urging them to take action to prevent the closures. City leaders also cite concerns about how this might impact funding for projects like taxi or runway construction at Columbia Regional Airport.

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