Feds give more time to control towers... - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Feds give more time to control towers...but some won't mind if they close

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Erik Landrum is a flight instructor with Texas State Aviation at the San Marcos Municipal Airport .


The San Marcos tower is one of 14 across Texas and 149 across the nation that will most likely be empty soon thanks to federal budget cuts.


The first to come to the towers' rescue, at least here in Texas, was TXDOT. A couple of weeks ago, Governor Perry urged officials there to do something, so TXDOT put in $2 million to buy the 14 Texas towers a little time -- 90 days.


But last Friday, the FAA decided to delay the closures until June 15th. Then officials will stop funding the 149 towers all at once instead of phasing them out.


Landrum says the San Marcos tower has only been up and running for about a year and a half and he doesn't mind if it closes. He says he wasn't thrilled about it being there in the first place.


"I thought it was kind of a little waste of taxpayer money. Most of the towers, if they're not radar controlled, they don't have actual radar for the individuals to monitor what's going on..it's see and be seen. And so if the pilot doesn't report their correct position or doesn't respond to them correctly, then they're not sure where they are unless they can visually see them," Landrum said.


Landrum says there are usually two air traffic controllers in the tower at a time. One is keeping an eye on the ground and the other is watching the skies.


"The pilots become complacent when they rely on somebody else but they don't realize that these guys don't have radar so they're not really sure exactly where they are sometimes and if you're not familiar with the area it could be an issue," Landrum said.


Many airports are concerned tower closures will hurt the economy of the airport by affecting the businesses there.


Landrum doesn't think so.


"Companies that have aircraft that they use, they don't come to a city or an area for the airport itself. There's a lot of airports in Texas, a lot of places they can fly into. They come for the city, incentives that the city gives to these businesses and if there's an airport there close by, it's even better for them," Landrum said.


Melissa Millecam with the City of San Marcos tells FOX 7 "We are glad that the FAA has delayed closing our airport tower and grateful for the support from the State of Texas and Texas Department of Transportation. We will continue to work hard to keep our airport tower open."


The original plan was a 4 week-closure process that was supposed to start today. But as we mentioned, the new expiration date on these towers is June 15th. That is, unless the individual towers decide to continue operating as non-federal contract towers.

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