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Eight WI airports could lose control towers due to sequestration

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The sequester is about to have another casualty, at airports across the nation. The FAA plans to close more than 100 control towers across the country, and eight at risk are in Wisconsin.

Proposed FAA cuts would close the control tower at Milwaukee's Timmerman Airport. Under the sequester, federal departments, including the FAA lose 5% of their funding.

Flight instructor Dan Gerard says it's the wrong place to cut.

"The tower does provide an extra layer of safety. It's one person who is aware of all the aircraft in the airspace and is able to coordinate the traffic patterns the pilots are flying," Gerard said.

Without a tower, the airport would remain open as pilots can communicate with one another, but with hundreds of homes just across the street, Gerard says it's a matter of safety and quality of life.

"Having a more streamlined flow of traffic in and out of the airport keeps the noise down, minimizes flights over the houses of the airport's neighbors," Gerard said.

In Waukesha, another control tower operates with an uncertain future. Airport Manager Kurt Stanich says businesses might send their planes away from Waukesha if its tower were to close.

"They make risk-based decisions on a points scale and as they go through and evaluate the flight and conditions and all those things, they will give three extra points to a place that has a control tower, meaning it's more safe," Gerard said.

The FAA allowed airports to appeal its decision. It was supposed to announce the final list of closures on Monday, March 18th, but due to overwhelming response, it's been pushed back to Friday.

"We question the need for the cut and we question how they were actually making the cut and whether they were considering the safety aspect of it because it closes 40% of the towers around the United States," Kurt Stanich with the Waukesha County Airport said.

The proposed cuts would also eliminate the overnight shift at the Mitchell Airport control tower. However, a spokesman there says people flying in and out of Mitchell will not notice any changes, as the vast majority of overnight flights at Mitchell are cargo planes.