(Millington, TN) Several small Mid-South airports will be feeling the hit from forced budget cuts that are a part of the sequester.
The FAA is closing 173 air traffic control towers at small and medium size airports next month and even more later on in the year.
A few of those airports affected in the Mid-South are Olive Branch, Tupelo, Millington, and Jackson, TN.
The Millington Airport Authority calls their regional jetport a ‘nation interest’. The executive director says closing down the air traffic control tower puts more at risk than just a few jobs.
“It’s a big deal to us, its a big deal to the Memphis area and hopefully it’s all going to get worked out,” said Rodney Hendrix, Executive Director of the Millington Airport Authority.
He believes the tower is vital for FedEx. It uses the jetport as a weather alternative, meaning the proximity to Memphis International, compared to a larger airport further away, lets FedEx carry less fuel and more cargo, keeping shipping prices down.
The Millington Regional Jetport clocks 30,000 take-offs and landings each year, but it could dwindle as the air traffic control tower faces closure by the FAA.
Hendrix says the tower closure could do a world of hurt. Four traffic controllers would lose their jobs and it would keep large aircraft from finding refuge in the event of a storm or emergency. Plus, smaller aircraft would now have to fend for themselves.
“Safety is always number one,” said Hendrix.
The National Guard would likely shut down its training exercises here, which Hendrix says, it was hoping to ramp up.
“They won't operate in airports or airfields usually that don't have a tower,” said Hendrix.
When hurricanes hit the coast, Hendrix says the military brings its aircraft here for safety He says that would likely end too.
Hendrix hopes some kind of deal can be met in Washington to keep the tower open.
Congressman Steve Cohen has written to the FAA Administrator requesting it to reconsider the closure.
To see the list of proposed tower closures, click here .