Regional airports across Wisconsin could be losing air traffic control facilities if the federal sequestration goes into effect.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is preparing to make $600 million in cuts this year if the automatic reductions take effect on Friday, meaning that air traffic control towers could shut down at eight regional airports in Wisconsin, including La Crosse, Janesville, and Oshkosh.
Eau Claire's Chippewa Valley Regional Airport manager Charity Speich says airports can operate without air traffic control towers, but she doesn't want to see it happen.
"You go back to a system where pilots are talking to each other versus having a mediator, so to speak, or somebody making sure that everybody's talking to one another. So there definitely is a loss of safety."
Speich says the controllers could also lose their jobs. Plus, she says, flight landings would have to be spaced out more, which could result in delays.
Under sequestration, the FAA controllers could also be furloughed. This would affect employees at larger airports, like Chicago and Minneapolis. Most of Wisconsin's regional airports have air traffic controllers contracted by the FAA.
Waukesha County Airport Manager Kurt Stanich says that program was implemented to save money. "An FAA tower costs a lot of money to run. The contract towers, by comparison, are a significant savings. So if the contract tower program was cut, it'd seem to be the wrong thing to do since it was instituted to save money in the first place."
The FAA could also cut overnight shifts at the Milwaukee Tower at Mitchell Airport.
A list of the FAA towers that could be closed under sequestration (PDF)Airports where overnight shifts could be eliminated, including Milwaukee (PDF)Letter from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta regarding the cuts (PDF)