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Budget Cuts Force Air Control Towers To Close

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The air traffic control towers at airports in Waukegan, Gary and Kenosha are among 149 facilities that will close starting April 7.

It a result of the budget impasse in Washington that led to across-the-board automatic spending cuts.

“As part of the agency’s sequestration implementation plan,” the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

“The agency has made the decision to keep 24 federal contract towers open that had been previously proposed for closure because doing so would have a negative impact on the national interest.”

Gary currently doesn’t have controllers overnight. Interim director Steven Landry says pilot-to-pilot communication will continue.

But pilots say winging it may not always be the best option.  There could be safety issues.

Rob Hult has been flying since the 1980s. He says he’ll feel less comfortable without a control tower.

“With a control tower, he will notify me that aircraft is in the vicinity, and vector me around that aircraft. Not having a control person in the tower, we will no longer have that information,” he tells CBS 2′s Pamela Jones. “It’s definitely scary to me.”

“We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration.”

Others not far from Chicago include the St. Louis Regional Airport in Alton, the Central Illinois Regional Airport at Bloomington-Normal and the Decatur Airport in the Carbondale-Murphysboro area.

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