The Main Stream

Mar 7, 2013 8:01 PM by Erika Flores

Sequestration cuts affecting local airport

TUCSON - The trickle down effect of federal sequestration cuts is affecting a local airport.

Ryan Airfield is on a list of smaller airports set to lose air traffic control towers in April.

It made the list because there are fewer than 150,000 take offs and landings, but the Tucson Airport Authority is working to save that tower.

They missed the mark by almost 30,000 take offs and landings.

In 2012, they had 121,000.

Pilots said if the tower is shut down, that would be disastrous.

"I think that's not really a good idea," said John Gordon, a private pilot.

Ryan Airfield is one of 189 airports on that list.

"I'm real disappointed and quite upset that that might go away," said Phil Drury, a pilot.

His friend agrees.

"We have three runways here so we have the potential for disaster," said pilot John Phillips.

The air traffic control tower tells pilots whether they're clear for take off or landing.

They also navigate safely through bad weather and keep planes at a safe distance from each other.

"The pattern gets very heavy at times, and the controllers keep us safe," said pilot John Gordon.

Gordon said the air traffic control tower helped him land safely when the transmission part of his radio went out while in flight.

"I would click three times and then they would give me the next command on where I should be in the pattern. That it was all safe to land and let me do that," said Gordon.

But as long as pilots' radios are working, retired flight instructor Bill Mclearran claims an airfield without an air traffic control tower can be safer than an airfield with a tower.

"I believe they are because those pilots at those fields are used to and depend on only their eyes. They are all in communication today. Most aircrafts have radios, so we can communicate with each other clearly," said Mclearran.

But these pilots said they don't want Ryan Airfield making the FAAs final list because they feel safer with more eyes in the sky.

"Cutting down on the number of people that are actually looking out for us is not a good idea at all," said Phillips.

The Tucson Airport Authority is petitioning the FAA to keep the tower open.

The FAA will release their final list of closures March 18.

This is the Tucson Airport Authority's statement:

"Tucson Airport Authority is preparing materials to petition the FAA to keep the ATC tower at Ryan Airfield operating. The FAA is asking for information pertaining to negative national impacts that would result from closure. We believe the military operations conducted at Ryan Airfield meet this criteria. The Arizona Army National Guard conducts training exercises at Ryan, as well as U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the U.S. Air Force.

Locally, the closure of these facilities would result in significant job losses for controllers, for on-airport business operations, and for businesses that rely on a local airport to access the national and international aviation system. We hope to persuade the FAA to reconsider its plans to close the air traffic control tower at Ryan Airfield."

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