Georgetown Airport tower to close in April unless city can help - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Georgetown Airport tower to close in April unless city can help

In early March, the FAA released a list of 189 air traffic control towers at small airports that were being put on the chopping block.

Friday, the final list was released and they've managed to get it down to 149 -- Georgetown is still on that list.

Only recently did the Georgetown Municipal Airport get their tower. And they've gotten pretty used to the safety it provides.

"The tower allows the aircraft to be sequenced in so there's different speeds of the aircraft at different altitudes. So when you've got jet traffic and you've got students practicing ‘touch and go's' the tower helps with sequencing those aircraft in," said Airport Manager Sarah Hinton.

But, thanks to the FAA's sequestration plan to save more than $600 million, come April, the tower will most likely be empty.

Airport manager and pilot Sarah Hinton says in addition to laying off their six air traffic controllers, the closing will have an immediate impact.

"Certainly, we're gonna have some conflicts in the air. I mean you know, hopefully the pilots will be in touch with each other. They know how to operate under non-towered conditions and hopefully that transition will go as smoothly as possible from a towered airport to a non-towered airport if that's what happens," Hinton said.

Beth Jenkins is a long-time flight instructor and President of Pilot's Choice Aviation based at the Georgetown Airport.

She says it will take a while to transition back to the old ways.

"We taxi, we look, we taxi, we may have to pull off in the grass to let somebody else go by and so it gets a little cumbersome," Jenkins said.

She says it's just better and safer with the air traffic controllers watching over them.

"It concerns me about safety. And they were very good at keeping us apart. And with the mix of airplanes, I think everybody's concerned about that. So I think some of the bigger jets probably won't even bother to come in here," Jenkins said.

And she may be right -- Hinton says some of the larger aircraft won't be able to land there anymore because their insurance requires them to land at towered airports.

"You're talking about multi-million dollar aircraft sometimes so you know, insurance wants it to be as safe as possible and for those larger speed-type aircraft, your jets, they're gonna want the tower to help guide them in," Hinton said.

"I think there's gonna be some companies out here losing customers that were buying fuel…and that's a shame," Jenkins said.

Hinton says there's still a chance the tower could remain open but they need help...financial help. They'll be reviewing their options at Georgetown city council on Tuesday.

"At this time, it looks like that's our only option. I don't believe that the state's gonna be able to come in and fund anything at this point but -- I'll be working with TXDOT officials next week and see if there's any options there but yeah…it looks like it's gonna come down to local funding," Hinton said.

Beth Jenkins says she wishes instead of just closing the tower, they would have just reduced its hours.

That way money could still be saved and so could the tower.

If it can't be saved, the tower is due to close sometime after April 7.

List of Texas closures

BAZ - New Braunfels Muni, New Braunfels, TX

BRO - Brownsville/South Padre Island Intl, Brownsville TX

CLL - Easterwood Field, College station, TX

CNW - TSTC Waco, Waco, TX

CXO - Lone Star Executive, Houston, TX

GTU - Georgetown Muni, Georgetown, TX

HYI - San Marcos Muni, San Marcos TX

RBD - Dallas Executive, Dallas, TX

SGR - Sugarland Regional, Houston, TX

SSF - Stinson Muni, San Antonio, TX

TKI - Collin County Regional at McKinney, Dallas, TX

TVR - Tyler Pounds Regional, Tyler TX

VCT - Victoria Regional, Victoria, TX

On the Web - full list of closures: http://1.usa.gov/14hZ9i7

 

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