[LOCATION: KENNESAW, GEORGIA- MARCH 26, 2013] [SOURCE: AP]

[NAT-BREAK]

LAST WEEK, THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION SAID IT WILL CLOSE 149 CONTRACT AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL TOWERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY BECAUSE OF ACROSS-THE-BOARD FEDERAL BUDGET CUTS

[SOT: THOMAS HUFF / PRESIDENT / MCCOLLUM FIELD]

"THERE WILL BE AN ACCIDENT SOMEWHERE, IT'S A MATHEMETICAL CERTAINTY."

[NAT-BREAK]

NEAR ATLANTA IS MCCULLOM FIELD.

EACH DAY, NEARLY 200 AIRCRAFTS ARRIVE AND DEPART FROM HERE.

[SOT: KARL VON HAGEL / AIRPORT MANAGER]

"WE HAVE ORGAN TRANSPLANT FLIGHTS, WE HAVE AIR AMBULANCE, WE HAVE LIFE FLIGHTS."

AND OF COURSE, MANY CORPORATE JETS AND STUDENT PILOT PROGRAMS

THIS URBAN AIR STRIP FEEDS OVER 100 MILLION DOLLARS INTO THE LOCAL ECONOMY. BUT, ON MAY 5TH THEIR CONTROL TOWER, WHOSE WORKERS ARE NOT FAA EMPLOYEES, IS SET TO CLOSE.

[SOT: KARL VON HAGEL / AIRPORT MANAGER]

"THE FAA HAS NOTIFIED US THAT THE 149 CONTRACT TOWERS THAT THEY INTEND TO CLOSE DURING THIS NEXT FEW WEEKS CYCLE WILL HAVE A SAVING OF 33 MILLION DOLLARS TO THE FAA."

THE FAA SAYS THEY MUST ABSORB 637 MILLION BY THIS FALL

BUT FOR MCCULLUM FIELD , WHICH IS JUST MILES FROM BUSIEST AIRPORT IN THE WORLD AND SHARES AIRSPACE WITH COMMERCIAL JUMBO JETS AND EVEN MILITARY AIRCRAFTS, MANY PEOPLE THINK SAVING ONLY 33 MILLION SEEMS UNNACCEPTABLE CONSIDERING THE LOCAL ECONOMIC IMPACT AND SAFETY RISKS TO THE PUBLIC

[SOT: THOMAS HUFF / PRESIDENT / MCCOLLUM FIELD]

"IT'S VERY SHORT SIDED WHAT IS GOING ON. TO TURN THE SWITCH OFF AND THINK NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN IS JUST IGNORANT."

IN A RECENT STATEMENT, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY RAY LAHOOD SAID,

[FULL SCREEN GRAPHIC]

"UNFORTUNATELY WE ARE FACED WITH A SERIES OF DIFFICULT CHOICES THAT WE HAVE TO MAKE TO REACH THE REQUIRED CUTS UNDER SEQUESTRATION."

[SOT: KARL VON HAGEL / AIRPORT MANAGER]

"WE SURE HOPE THAT THEY CAN LOOK BEYOND THAT 33 MILLION DOLLARS AND LOOK AT THE EFFECT OF CLOSING 40 PERCENT OF THE CONTROL TOWERS IN THE COUNTRY MIGHT HAVE."

[SOT: THOMAS HUFF / PRESIDENT / MCCOLLUM FIELD]

"WE ARE SMARTER THAN THIS, THIS IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WE KNOW BETTER AND WE ARE GOING TO LET THIS HAPPEN?"

MANY IN THE INDUSTRY SAY THAT THE MONEY COULD BE SAVED BY REDUCING THE HOURS IN THE TOWER AND ASKING PILOTS TO WORK MORE CLOSELY WITH THE FAA.

INSTEAD, STARTING IN EARLY APRIL, 149 CONTROL TOWERS WILL BE PHASED OUT LEAVING PILOTS COORDINATING THEIR OWN TAKEOFFS AND LANDINGS OVER A SHARED RADIO FREQUENCY.

ROBERT RAY, ASSOCIATED PRESS, KENNESAW, GEORGIA

 

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