Control tower at Kissimmee Gateway Airport on cut list

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Congressman Alan Grayson said he's working to stop the potential closure of the closest air traffic control tower to Disney World and the Orange County Convention Center.

And Channel 9's Lori Brown found the closure could put the airport's more than 100 employees at risk of losing their jobs.

There are 129,000 safe takeoffs and landings at Kissimmee Gateway Airport each year thanks to the watchful eyes of air traffic controllers, but next week, they could be sequestration's latest casualty.

"We are on the layoff list, the list where they cut the funding," said Grayson.

Grayson said he's working to get the airport off the list, which he thinks shouldn't exist to begin with.

"Why is it that the richest, most powerful country in the entire world would be cutting its air traffic control budget by 9 percent?" asked Grayson.

Kissimmee's mayor said there is no way the city could afford to keep the tower open, as staffing it costs a half-million dollars a year, which is about half of the airport's revenue.

"Of all the things to cut, why cut air traffic control? Can't we do better than that?" said Grayson.

The airport director said the airport could operate without the air traffic control tower, but he compared it to John Young Parkway and U.S.192 operating without traffic signals.

"Closing down control towers in a metropolitan area will increase the risk for accidents," said Terry Lloyd, the director of aviation at KGA.

Lloyd said closing the tower would force many businesses that use the airport to go elsewhere, reducing the airport's estimated $100 million economic impact.