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Lack of Air Traffic Control Could Cause Travel Problems

By Cyndi Lundeberg
By clundeberg@wbbjtv.com

MADISON COUNTY, Tenn. - Cloudy skies could be leading to more than bumpy rides for travelers beginning this spring.

Nationwide, nearly 200 air traffic control towers will be shutting down, one of those shutting down is McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport.

Lonny Ford, uses McKellar-Sipes, he said he worries about the safety repercussions of such cuts.

"There are a lot of other places they could make cuts other than places that are going to cost people lives," he said.

The affect will be felt locally and nationwide and will impact every aspect of air travel, from workers to travelers. Bryan Moyers travels frequently between Nashville and Jackson and uses McKellar-Sipes Airport.

"I like using this airport and the fact that we're not gonna have any air traffic control, I wouldn't feel safe flying not at all," he said.

Steve Smith, executive director of the Madison County Airport Authority said the cutbacks will cost thousands of air traffic controllers their jobs. He said the responsibility of taking off and landing a plane safely will fall solely onto pilots.

"What we've taken for granted is those guys in the tower telling us if there's a problem or if there's an alert.. We're now gonna have to find that out for ourselves now," Smith said.

Smith also said the loss will slow down air travel and will be a major safety concern during inclement weather. Bryan Moyers said he has seen first hand how air traffic control can help safely land a plane.

"I've flown in and out of here in the rain when I know I can't see out of the windows and I'm sure the pilots can't either. You have to rely on the air traffic controller and if you can't, then you shouldn't be taking off the ground."

The affects will take place beginning April 7. A total of five jobs at McKellar-Sipes will be lost.