Reporting Maria Medina
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The FAA says it plans to close Sacramento Executive Airport’s tower on April 7 as part of the agency’s sequestration implementation plan.
The agency reached the decision Friday to close 149 of 189 federal contract towers. Agency head, Ray LaHood, said deciding which ones to close was difficult.
“We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration.”
The agency’s proposed closure of the 189 contract air traffic control towers is part of its plan to cut $637 million under budget sequestration; however, it will keep 24 of the towers open, it says, because closing them would have a negative impact on the national interest.
Sixteen other towers were kept open because they were funded by money set aside by congress.
“It’s like having another set of eyes and ears up there with you,” pilot and flight instructor Tyrone Powell said of the tower.
For some pilots, losing that watchful tower is a worry.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve departed this airport and I’ve gotten a lot of calls with the tower up here saying ‘hey you know you’ve got traffic 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock,” said Powell.
The Sacramento County spokesperson said in a statement there are many airports “…that have operated successfully for many years without an air traffic control tower.”
McClellan, Rancho Murieta and Lincoln are among those airports.
CBS13 looked at the average number of flights coming in and out of those airports and found McClellan has an average of 49 flights a day; Rancho Murieta has 74; and 204 in Lincoln. We also looked at Yolo, which has 165 flights a day.
However, Sacramento saw the most with 252 flights a day on average.
“We have procedures in place that we believe will be able to keep the operations safe,” said Scott Miller.
But Miller, also a pilot and flight instructor out of Sacramento Executive, says while pilots need to be more aware, he stresses there’s no cause for alarm.
“For the smaller airplanes moving at a slower speed, I think our procedures are adequate and I don’t think anybody has to worry about a huge safety problem here at Executive Airport,” he said.
However, he believes that the larger planes and corporate jets will go to airports with towers because they are more efficient and more organized, which will mean less revenue.
The tower is one of 11 California towers that will be closing. Here are the other 10:
• Fullerton Municipal (FUL)
• Castle, Atwater (MER)
• Oxnard (OXR)
• Riverside Municipal, Riverside (RAL)
• Ramona, Ramona (RNM)
• Brown Field Municipal, San Diego (SDM)
• Salinas Municipal (SNS)
• Southern California Logistics, Victorville (VCV)
• Whiteman, Los Angeles (WHP)
• General Wm. J. Fox Airfield, Lancaster (WJF)