Budget cuts lead to closing of four small Mid-South airport towe - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Budget cuts lead to closing of four small Mid-South airport towers

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(WMC-TV) – Budget cuts are forcing the government to shut down hundreds of airport traffic control towers.

Four of them are right here in the Mid-South.

"They will continue flying out of this airport but not with the same amount of safety that they had before," flight instructor Grant Bales said.

Bales is a flight instructor at the Olive Branch Regional Airport, which is one of four small Mid-South airports that will lose their air traffic control towers. The towers will be closed down because of federal budget cuts. Millington Regional Jetport, McKeller-Sipes Regional in Jackson, Tennessee and Tupelo regional are the other three airports on the list of 149 nationwide.

The main impact airport directors say is safety. It will be left to pilots to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves when the towers close.

"You have to be pretty diligent reporting where you are going and be vigilant," Chopper 5 Pilot, Sam Farris said. "You have to watch for other traffic."

Pilots are trained to do that but there still could be problems.

"The other aircraft might be dealing with an antiquated chart or talking on a different radio frequency," Farris said.

A lot of students train and learn at regional airports like Olive Branch.

"They are not as familiar with what they're supposed to be doing in the airspace and may not know where they are," Bales added.

In a statement the FAA Administrator said the agency will take steps to ensure safe operations at the affected airports. The towers will begin closing in the next few weeks.

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