Losing Air Traffic Control At WK Kellogg Airport

Posted at 9:34 PM, Mar 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-22 22:49:57-04

BATTLE CREEK Mich. – The FAA announced on Friday that the WK Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek is one of 149 airports across the country that will loosing funding to continue operations at the air traffic control tower.

The move is part of sequester cuts from the federal government.

At the airport, seven air traffic controllers will be loosing their jobs.

The FAA said the closures will start April 7th.

The transportation director of Battle Creek, Larry Bowran, is in charge of the airport.  He said it goes beyond the seven people directly affected.

Bowran said every plane that flies into his airspace will be impacted.

“Imagine a birthday cake, before you enter that you are supposed to call and then you are under their control once you are in there,” said Bowran.

After April 7th, no one from the tower will be there to take calls from the pilots.

Duncan Aviation has a hanger at the airport.

Tom Burt, the Chief Operating Officer with Duncan, said closing the tower is the same as making changes to a busy intersection.

“Taking the stop lights out and putting four way stops back in,” he said. “Everyone can do that, but it impedes the flow and makes it a little more dangerous.”

Along with private jets, Western Michigan University uses the airport for flight instruction and the Air National Guard also uses the tower.

Bowran said, “You have a mix of aircraft, some are very fast, some are very slow.  Some are coming from a long distance away, some from a close distance.  So, it’s the objective of the traffic controllers is to synchronize that.”

The transportation director said the diversity of aircraft may have been a reason the FAA chose to close the tower.  He said the FAA looks at the number of paid passengers.  That would not include students, private jets or military.

“They don’t consider the 233,000 people that flew out of the airport in federal fiscal year 2012 passengers,” said Bowran.

The FAA released a statement that it will close towers if there is no negative impact on the national interest.

Burt said operations at the airport will continue with some adjustments.

“We will get by,” he said.  “But there will be a little more danger that people will have to get used to.”

Bowran said the city of Battle Creek does have the option to pick up the contracts of the air traffic controllers but the entire bill would fall on the city’s shoulders.

He said the city is still weighing options at this time.