The Federal Aviation Administration Thursday said that Key Field in Meridian is among eight air traffic control towers in the state that are likely to close next month, at least temporarily. Local officials say it would be disastrous.
The FAA wants to cut funding on small air traffic control towers. There are 514 towers in the United States and the plan is to cut the funding on half of those.
"These air traffic control towers are needed. They are important," said Tom Williams, president of Meridian Airport Authority. "And they keep aircraft separated at busier airports around the United States. If they weren't needed they never would have been established to start with."
Williams says this is a way to get more attention to the sequestration than it is a real desire to cut the control towers, and he has his doubts that they will.
"Get attention and get people to call their congressman, and try to get them to give the FAA more money or release that sequestration, is doing what they can to affect the public as far as I'm concerned," said Williams.
Williams says the military will have fewer places that they can practice take-offs, landings and approaches if the control towers close. Williams also says the towers were placed here for safety.
"With the mix of high speed airplanes in Columbus Air Force Base and U.S. Navy, the slower airplanes, the civilian guys that fly, carriers that come and go, it's not a safe thing to fly without a control tower at an airport this busy," said Williams.
In addition to Key Field, control towers in Tupelo, Bay Saint Louis, Columbus, Greenville, Jackson and Olive Branch are scheduled to be closed because of the sequester.