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About Northeast Florida
Budget cuts could close flight towers
March 14, 2013
Florida will find out Monday which airports will have to cut staffing and close their towers because of sequestration.
Channel 4 learned last month that staffing at towers for small airports across the country would be cut.
This means places like Cecil Field, Craig Airport or the Northeast Regional in St. Augustine could have towers down because of budget cuts.
There are potential closures from about $600 million in cuts the FAA needs to make between now and the end of the fiscal year in September.
"I'm just taking it upon myself as one of the staff, this will be our last safety meeting before the tower closure kicks in," said flight instructor Ernie Strange. "The boys find out on the 18th. We're all behind the guys in the tower. We don't want them to lose their jobs."
Strange teaches pilots how to fly and how to fly safely. At a regular safety meeting at Craig Airfield, Strange decided giving the pending cuts, he would add an important reminder to the program.
"We're taking preemptive steps. Craig airport on closure list, Cecil Field on list, St. Aug on list for tower closure," said Strange. "When those towers close, there won't be any tower people, but there are procedures in place inside the FAA, saying this is how pilots need to operate when the towers are closed."
In a packed conference room Thursday night, Strange described to pilots what they should already know. Strange said he wants to make sure, before towers come down, that everyone flying knows what to do when the sequester hits the airstrip.
"That's exactly what this is: It's a reaction to the sequestration. The money's not there to fund the towers," said Strange. "This is the decision of the government to shut down these towers down, to close. But we've still gotta fly and we want to fly safe."