Sequester could affect Hickory Airport Tower - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Sequester could affect Hickory Airport Tower

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HICKORY, NC (WBTV) -

As the debate over the sequester of funds continues in Washington among the cuts that are on the list are several air traffic control towers at smaller airports.

Among the towers to be targeted is the one at the Hickory Regional Airport. 

"It's a safety issue for us not to be here," said Lezli Kolcun, manager of operations at the Hickory tower.

While the tower is on the list, the people who work there have not been told much.

"We have no idea what's going to happen," said Vicky Gregory.

The only thing they know is that if the cuts stay in place the doors could be closed in April but also that nothing has been committed to yet. 

Local officials say they are concerned that the closing could affect the growth of business at the airport.

If it closes, pilots would have more responsibility in the safety issues surrounding landings and takeoffs.

A control tower only handles ground traffic and the first minute or so of flight after takeoff and the final minutes before landing.

Regional control facilities such as those in Atlanta handle most operations while aircraft are airborne. 

One pilot from Winston Salem, who did not want to be identified, said it shouldn't be a major issue if the control tower closes.

"There's probably more fields that do not have control towers than do."

Pilots are trained to handle those situations. A common frequency is available so pilots approaching an airport can talk with other pilots on the ground or in the immediate area.

"Kinda get in line, talk to each other and wait your turn," said another pilot.  

No matter what happens with the sequester, no one thinks the debate over spending cuts and affects on local communities will be over.

"We all know we have to draw in our belts," said Rainer MacGuire who was at the airport this week. 

"All of us have had to handle a family budget and that's what this is all about, a budget."

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