Federal budget cuts claim 3 area airport control towers

March 22, 2013 5:27:59 PM PDT
Three Chicago-area airports' control towers will be shut down on April 7, the result of federal budget cuts from the sequestration.

The three towers are in Gary, Waukegan and Kenosha.

The airports will remain open. It's the air traffic control towers that will be closing, impacting dozens of small airports across the country.

The Federal Aviation Administration is trimming $637 million from the fiscal year that ends September 30.

The control tower at Gary/Chicago International Airport is slated to close April 7. Across the nation, 149 towers will shut down.

In Gary, airport officials expect it to impact airport efficiency, but not safety.

"There are procedures in place for this to be done. Pilots do it every day," said Steven Landry, Interim Airport Director, Gary Chicago International Airport. "In fact, our control tower is only open 5 a.m. to 10 p.m."

The Gary airport has one commercial carrier, Allegiant. The airlines flies from Gary to Florida twice a week.

"All of our pilots are trained in visual flying, which allows them to safely fly in and out of uncontrolled air space," said Jessica Wheeler, Allegiant Spokeswoman.

Boeing is the largest tenant at the Gary Airport. Corporate flights are also a concern at Waukegan Regional Airport. The tower at that airport is also on the hit list.

"Of the seven that are going to close on April 7, they generate $6.8 million to the economy," said Jim Stanczak, Waukegan Regional Airport, Airport Manager.

There are five Illinois traffic control towers impacted, two in Indiana and eight in Wisconsin.