Orlando Executive, other local airports could lose air traffic control towers



ORLANDO, Fla. - Channel 9's Jeff Deal is working to find out if new federal cuts could make it more dangerous to fly into central Florida.

The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing closing the air traffic control tower at Orlando Executive Airport, and Deal found airports in Kissimmee, New Smyrna Beach, Ormond Beach, Titusville, Leesburg, Ocala and Lakeland could also lose their towers.

Pilots who spoke with Channel 9 said they don't think it would be safe to operate aircraft without anyone manning the tower at the executive airport.

The airport deals with more than 100,000 flight operations a year, and the air traffic controller works during the day to help guide pilots in and out of the area.

"Orlando executive has been put on a list of 100 airports that could see closing of the air traffic control tower," said Carolyn Fennell of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

Air traffic controllers at seven other small local airports are also on the chopping block, but some pilots said it might not make much difference at most small airports.

But Orlando Executive Airport is busy and some of the airspace is directly beneath airspace for flights heading into Orlando International Airports.

Capt. Dan Miller, an airline pilot with more than 20 years of experience, said he has a hard time believing the Executive airport could lose its tower.

"It may increase what they call incursions, airplanes getting too close to each other, or God forbid, airplanes running into each other," he said.

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority said that could keep some from using the airport, which would reduce revenue.

But Rep. John Mica said he doesn't believe any airports should lose their controllers. He said he believes it's just a political scare tactic.

"There are a lot of bureaucrats sitting in desks in Washington with huge salaries who could be furloughed if need be," said Mica.

LINK: Air Traffic Control Facilities that may close due to sequester