Milwaukee, Janesville airports' control towers could lose staff
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Federal budget cuts could force overnight airport control towers in Milwaukee to go dark or trigger the closure of eight regional Wisconsin airports, leaving it up to pilots to coordinate their own landings.
The Federal Aviation Administration must cut $600 million under the automatic budget cuts that took effect March 1.
Among the towers facing closure is tower the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville.
FAA plans include instituting furlough days for almost all employees and closing more than 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations or 10,000 commercial operations each year.
The Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville falls into that category.
The agency will decide by March 18 which airports will lose tower services. The airports would remain open but pilots would have to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves via radio and visual contact, as they do now at night when the tower isn’t open.
FAA officials sent a letter to airport managers this week saying their decisions would be based solely on the national interest and wouldn’t take into account local community impacts.
Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport is among the 72 airports nationwide whose control towers could be shut down during late-night hours. Airport spokesman Harold Mester said any overnight shutdown would affect a few dozen cargo flights and smaller planes but it shouldn’t affect passenger flights.
“We don’t have any regularly scheduled airline flights from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.,” Mester said. He said the airport would remain open 24 hours a day, and that pilots have procedures for landing safely when no tower services are available.
Passenger flights could still end up arriving late if there were delays, Mester said. When asked what would happen to those flights he deferred to the FAA, which didn’t immediately respond.