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Federal cuts could shut down control tower at Janesville airport

Published On: Feb 26 2013 07:23:29 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 26 2013 07:53:31 PM CST

There's still no sign of a deal averting $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts that are scheduled to begin Friday.

Those cuts include a $600 million reduction for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The control tower at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport could potentially be shut down.

"The last couple years, we've been over 50,000 operations per year. An operation is a landing or a takeoff," said Director Ron Burdick.

He said the airport's five part-time control tower staffers could lose their jobs if the federal cuts go into effect. Burdick said a manned control tower is safer for travelers and better for the local economy.

"One of the top 10 things a company looks at is what type of airport you have, the size of the airport, the type of aircraft you can handle in and out. Of course we were built up in the (General Motors) times, where they were bringing in a lot of freight and a lot of heavy aircraft, so we can pretty much handle anything out there at this time," Burdick said.

SC Aviation operates charter service out of the airport.

"Having a full view of everything that's going on operationally on the ground just makes things so much safer," said Andy Schweickert, marketing and communications manager for SC Aviation.

Schweickert said SC Aviation would feel safer having eyes on the ground.

"The lack of people in the tower would diminish the safety of operations a bit. Secondarily, from an efficiency standpoint, we'd be looking at possible delays, thus making it harder to serve our customers in the end," Schweickert said.

SC Aviation's six jets will remain in Janesville and the airport will stay open.

Burdick said the federal cuts could keep some businesses out of the area.

"It may not be as likeable as an airport as one that has a tower, and has that safety factor of a tower there for the users to get in and out," Burdick said.

Despite handling everything from small planes to Air Force One, Janesville is being targeted because the FAA is making cuts at airports with fewer than 150,000 takeoffs and landings every year.

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