JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) - The Senate passed a bill Monday that, if also passed in the House, would keep government agencies running through September 30. Among other issues, the bill sets aside $50 million to keep air traffic control towers up and running, like the one at Jackson County Airport.
Christopher Monk runs inflight training for students in JCC's flight training program. He said experienced pilots make the mistake of wrong directions--west is where north normally is on a compass. Add in limited visibility due to weather, and the tower acts as a last resort for them.
Jackson County airport's air traffic control tower, contracted through the FAA, is scheduled to close September 30.
"It's taking a level of safety away and it's because of a funding fight in Washington," said Monk.
More than three quarters of the nation's contract towers, about 200, are slated to close this year. Kent Maurer, manager at Jackson County Airport, said that means the skies around airports will be run like 4-way stop signs.
"We know how those work at busy intersections because not everyone complies with the suggested protocol," Maurer adds.
In a report published in November 2012 by the Office of the Inspector General, contract towers were found to have fewer safety incidents and cost over $1 million less to run than FAA towers. Â@
The House still needs to pass the bill and President Obama has to sign it.
The American Association of Airport Executives says not only is safety a concern, but more than 1,500 air traffic controllers, five from jackson, will be out of work.