La Crosse Airport traffic control tower set to close in April

Published On: Mar 06 2013 06:10:38 PM CST   Updated On: Mar 06 2013 06:29:05 PM CST
LA CROSSE, Wis. -- -

Airplanes at the La Crosse airport will soon have to take off and land without help from the air traffic control tower.

As part of the federal budget cuts, the airport is losing all of its air traffic controllers.

The four air traffic controllers at the La Crosse Municipal Airport will be out of a job come April.

The Federal Aviation Administration told the La Crosse airport the air traffic control tower would be cut by April 7.

Without a tower, pilots will now be responsible for communicating with each other to make sure they are clear to take off or land, rather than receiving their instructions from the air traffic controllers.

While it's a significant change, La Crosse airport management says the pilots are more than prepared for it.

"Every pilot when they go through basic training works at uncontrolled airports. It's part of the training; every pilot knows how to do it. It's actually more common than not," said Clinton Torp, La Crosse Municipal Airport manager.

The change is not unheard of. There are uncontrolled airports that operate across the country on a daily basis.

It's something that passengers might not notice.

California woman Dixie Waldrip, who came to visit her daughter in La Crosse, says she didn't know some towers were going to close but says it's an idea worth looking into.

"I could give you a glib answer like, 'Oh, that would be catastrophic,' or, 'Oh, they'll probably be fine.' But the fact of the matter is, there probably needs to be some more research done that the public can hear relevant to what's going on on both sides," said Waldrip.

The manager of the La Crosse airport says on average, flight control towers are contracted for $600,000 to $700,000 a year.

By September, a total of 189 air traffic control towers will be closed across the nation.