10/31/2014

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5 airport control towers in state, including Yakima, get the ax

5 airport control towers in state, including Yakima, get the ax
Yakima Air Terminal
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YAKIMA, Wash. -- The gauntlet fell on five air traffic control towers in Washington Friday when the FAA released the list of 149 towers it will close across the country starting next month, due to those automatic federal government budget cuts.

The tower at Yakima Air Terminal will close. Horizon Air, which flies three round trips a day into Yakima, tells passengers not to worry. Pilots are trained to handle it.

Spokane's Felts Field is the second tower in Eastern Washington on the closure list. The Walla Walla and Moses Lake towers remain open at this time.

Another one of those towers is at the Renton Municipal Airport, where large and small aircraft share runway space

Pilots radio air the traffic controller, who tells them who goes next. But this tower and four others in our state will close as part of the government's requirement to trim $600 million from its budget.

"It will still be safe," said Pro-Flight Aviation owner Diane Paholke. "The pilots know how to talk to each other in the air, but it was a greater deal of safety with the control tower."

Paholke says it's like a busy intersection with a four-way stop, when you'd rather have a stoplight controlling the traffic.

And the Renton airport is unique since it's surrounded by hillsides full of homes.

"And so we have variations in altitude that you don't have a normal airport that you really need a tower to back you up on," Paholke said.

That worries some locals.

"I mean, someone's going to have to with those (737)'s taking off," said Connie Morris. "I mean, Boeing's going to have to have to get an air control person in the tower or keep the airport municipal."

Boeing 737s come and go from Renton but the company says it's operations will go on as normal using protocol already established.

In Western Washington, the airport towers at Renton, Tacoma Narrows and Olympia are closing under this cut Friday. Everett's Paine Field remains open.
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