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Columbia city leaders talk about the effects the tower could have on economic impact

Columbia Regional Airport and City of Columbia leaders are hoping the closure of the air traffic control tower doesn’t cause safety issues because say it could impact economic development.

The city was notified the tower will close May 5 th on Wednesday night. It is one of 149 towers scheduled to close due to the sequestration. Traffic controllers tell us this will affect some airlines.

Mayor Bob McDavid tells ABC 17 News the city has been assured by the FAA that this isn’t going to cause safety problems. He says they’re taking the FAAs word for it because if it isn’t true, there may be repercussions.

City leaders say there have been some weekends where up to 80 planes have been parked on the tarmac. The only reason nothing bad happened that day was because they had someone in the control tower directing traffic.

But with the tower closing they’re worried on those busy weekends something could happen even though the f-a-a says there won’t be a problem.

“That remains the issue, is it a public safety issue? Well if the FAA says it’s not clear, why we had a tower 6 months ago,” McDavid explains.

McDavid says the biggest concern is they don’t know what is going to happen. He says they needed to have flights to international airports like Dallas and Chicago to help gets businesses to set up shop in Columbia.

But he’s worried if problems do start to pop up, businesses might not want to come to the area and airlines may not want to fly into an airport with unmanned towers.

We called airlines like United, Delta, and Allegiant to ask them if they would fly into markets without manned towers.

The only airline we heard back from was Allegiant. They say it won’t deter them because they already fly into airports in the same situation. McDavid tells us he hopes the FAA is correct and no safety problems come up.

“If that is the case it should not have any impact on our airline portfolio,” McDavid says.

McDavid if the city would look into funding the tower. He says he isn’t going to suggest it and will wait for city staff to recommend it.

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