Airport Tower on Chopping Block

MONTOURSVILLE — There is just one month until the so-called sequester cuts may hit airports in our area.

Two air traffic control towers, one in Luzerne County and the other in Lycoming County are on the list.

First, the control tower at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport could have its nighttime shifts eliminated, according to a list put out by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The agency must cut $600 million from its budget.

Another tower on that list, one set to close in a month’s time, is the control tower at Williamsport Regional Airport.

When planes land at and take off from Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville, pilots usually rely on air traffic controllers in the tower.

They have since 1959, but across-the-board federal budget cuts are touching down at more than one hundred other small to medium-sized airports across the country.

“It would be nice if Washington D.C. would alert you at least in writing or make a call and let you know this is going to happen,” said Airport Authority Chairman Mark Murawski.

The airport authority found out its control tower was on the list by looking at the FAA website.

Now airport officials are scrambling to figure out what to do about the control tower which is set to close April 7.

“If they’re insisting on closing it, what other alternatives do we have to make sure we can keep orderly aircraft movements about the airport,” said Murawski.

There are airports that do not rely on their own air traffic control towers but Williamsport Regional Airport is one of them that does. If the air traffic control tower were to go away, officials said the first step would be to put employees in place of those controllers to advise airplanes in the air of conditions and procedures.

“It will not affect travel for someone like me going wherever, I guess we don’t really know until it actually happens,” said Linda Gordner of South Williamsport.

Air travelers likely won’t notice a difference with airport employees manning the control tower instead of FAA contractors.

Still, the decision to close the tower comes with little warning.

“For something to be pounced on you with that short of notice, yeah, it’s a shock to everyone,” said Gordner.

A total of six control towers are on the chopping block in Pennsylvania and set to close in one month’s time.