Fate of air traffic control towers up in the air - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Fate of air traffic control towers up in the air

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- While Congress has voted to end furloughs for all FAA air traffic controllers, the future of small control towers set to close remains up in the air.

"It's been an up and down roller coaster," Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport's Chief Air Traffic Controller Earl Arrowood says. The Janesville control tower is one of eight in the state designated to shut down on June 15.

The employees have gotten a lot of reports over the past few months. "Telling us both ways, 'yes, you're going to stay, no you're leaving," Arrowood says. Right now, the controllers see about 200 planes come in and out every day. They say many of the pilots are in training.

"We have to calm them down and bring them in, no big deal. That's what we do. Who's gunna do that when were not here," Air Traffic Controller Lance Benham wonders.

But in the latest sequester developments, some believe the control towers may stay open for longer. Congress has passed a bill that will keep FAA air traffic controllers from getting furloughed after a week of delays across the country. The Associated Press reports that money approved in the legislation could also prevent the closure of the contract towers.

"We've been going through this for so long now that of course we have hope, we have hope that things will turn around and that Congress, the Senate and the President will do the right thing," Arrowood says.

He also says he'd really like to see a law that would protect all air traffic controllers from sequestration in the future.

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