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Closure of Tyler air traffic control tower not expected to impact travel, safety

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

The air traffic control tower at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport will close April 7, as the Federal Aviation Administration tries to meet the $637 Million in cuts required under budget sequestration.

City of Tyler officials say the bottom line is, this closure will change how air traffic communicates with each other. The city says no commercial flights or their passengers will see any change in flight schedules or in safety.

The city says a few flights at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport take off and land everyday without anyone manning the tower. Those are the first couple of flights in the morning and the last one at night. The city says pilots and towers in nearby cities have the tools necessary for aircrafts in Tyler to continue to safely takeoff and land without a local air traffic control tower.

The tower at Tyler's airport is one of 149 air traffic control towers scheduled to close nationwide. It is the only airport in East Texas that will be affected by the sequestration plan. The East Texas Regional Airport Tower in Longview is not on the list of scheduled closures. The Longview tower is operated by FAA employees, unlike the Tyler tower that is operated by a private company that the FAA contracts out to run the tower. By closing the Tyler tower, the FAA aims to save the money spent to pay those local contractors.

"We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration."

The news is disappointing for Tyler, but it's not going to cripple service at the airport.

"The main thing that I'd like to emphasize is the airport stays open. We have a strong history of good, reliable commercial air service and that will continue. People will be able to go in and out of our airport safely. We're taking every measure that we can, should there be a transition, that we ensure safety," says Tyler airport manager Davis Dickson.

Dickson says the city hopes the FAA will reconsider their decision and take Tyler off the list before April 7.

According to an FAA press release, in early March, FAA proposed to close 189 contract air traffic control towers and announced that it would consider keeping open any of these towers if doing so would be in the national interest.

The agency has made the decision to keep 24 federal contract towers open that had been on a previous closure list because of the negative impact on national interest.

In addition to reviewing materials submitted on behalf of towers on the potential closure list, DOT consulted with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and conducted operational assessments of each potential tower closure on the national air transportation system.

Copyright 2013 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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