An airplane takes off at the Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee. The airport's control tower could be shut down by April 1 if the federal government doesn't pass legislation that avoids a sequester scheduled to take effect March 1.
Central Wisconsin Airport's air-traffic control tower, along with the towers of seven other Wisconsin airports, could close March 1 as part of automatic, federal spending cuts if Congress fails to reach an agreement on taxes and spending cuts.
After a nine-day recess, Congress returned Feb. 25 to attempt to beat a March 1 deadline for roughly $85 billion in automatic, deficit-reduction spending cuts.
If the tower shuts down, Central Wisconsin Airport would remain open, but flights would often be delayed and safety at the airport could be compromised, Tony Yaron, the manager at CWA said.
The airport tower, and towers at Oshkosh, La Crosse and Eau Claire, is on a list of 200 airport towers up for possible closure; 100 airports would close if the sequester occurs March 1.
"I can't believe that anybody would allow something like that to happen," Yaron said. He said Feb. 22 that Central Wisconsin Airport would likely be on the final list of closures if the planned spending cuts are triggered. "This is unprecedented; I can't even begin to speculate what would happen here."
Yaron said closing the tower would mean six air-traffic controllers would lose their job at the airport. Traffic controllers help guide every flight in and out of the airport. Without a tower, traffic controllers stationed in Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis will have to remotely monitor flights lifting off and landing at CWA.
"It would be utter chaos," Yaron said.
The airport manager said delays would be inevitable with those major airports being forced to monitor hundreds of more flights daily. Yaron said about 350,000 passengers use Central Wisconsin Airport annually.
Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Feb. 22 that the closures could force massive flight delays across the country.
"These are harmful cuts with real-world consequences that will cost jobs and hurt the economy," LaHood said from a White House briefing room.
LaHood, a former Republican member of Congress, urged lawmakers to approve a compromise for $85 billion in spending cuts that are scheduled to hit every agency March 1. Republican lawmakers have opposed President Barack Obama's proposal to close tax loopholes in combination with targeted spending cuts to avoid the across-the-board spending cuts.
The full effect of flight delays and cancellations will be felt by April 1, LaHood said.
The CWA manager, however, said he doesn't believe the cuts will actually happen and that threats to shut down air-traffic control towers from politicians are empty.
"A lot of this is fear tactics that are being put forth to scare us all into doing something," Yaron said.
Decisions on which air-traffic control towers will be closed will come out of meetings the FAA has with air-traffic controllers and airlines.