Dangerous cuts loom for Central Texas airports


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

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Posted on March 1, 2013 at 11:23 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 1 at 11:41 PM

GEORGETOWN, Texas -- They're the ones who guide planes onto the runway and stop crashes from happening, but due to federal cuts, air traffic controllers in Georgetown and all over the county could be out of a job if the state doesn't step in to help.

“They're very upset; they're very concerned about the safety factor. They feel like the government needs to step forward and do something about it,” said Georgetown Municipal Airport manager Sarah Hinton.

Georgetown Municipal Airport has an average 200 planes land and take-off on a weekday, and on a weekend that number can double.

“We had 406 daily operations on Saturday, and so the tower was quite active,” said Hinton.

After federal spending cuts, however, Georgetown will no longer receive funding for tower positions.

The airport has operated without an air traffic controller in the past, but Hinton said that was dangerous and they are trying to avoid repeating history.

Now Hinton is looking to the state to fill that funding gap, and if there isn’t enough money there she said they will look on a local level.

“We're working with our city staff right now to determine if there's any means to fund that internally, if we don't have any state funds available."

That's because operating without an air traffic controller is Hinton’s last resort.

“It's very important. Everybody in the flying community knows that the tower is important."

Georgetown Municipal Airport will remain open regardless of what happens. In Austin, ABIA will see overnight air traffic control cuts.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood also warns that staff reductions at major airports like DFW and George Bush Intercontinental in Houston could lead to delays of up to 90 minutes.

The cuts take effect April 1st.