FAA Could Shut Down Topeka's Air Traffic Control Towers Friday

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TOPEKA, Kan (WIBW) -- The Federal Aviation Administration could shut down Topeka’s two air traffic control towers by Friday.

Both Forbes Field and Billard Airport were on an initial list of towers set to close because of sequestration. At Tuesday's Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority board meeting, directors said both Forbes and Billard will be in danger if they lose federal funding.

“With the tower at Forbes, with the tower at Billard we've sent a letter saying, defending exactly what we want or how we want to keep those in operation,” said Eric Johnson, MTAA president. “Airports across the country have been doing the same thing.”

The complaints forced the FAA to reevaluate which towers would close, but the Topeka area airports are still in jeopardy.

“As far as we're concerned, we're in limbo,” said Johnson.

If the FAA decides to cut federal funding for the Billard and Forbes towers, the board would have to decide whether to shell out an estimated $700,000 to keep them operational or put airport employees at risk.

“Whether its repairing light fixtures on the air field or mowing the grass, anything on the airfield without a control tower, safety is a big question,” said Johnson.

Johnson says if the contract control tower program ends, it probably would not return. He also maintains that keeping it alive is a cost effective and responsible decision.

“Towers under the program operate at about a 25 percent cost of staff towers and they have a better safety rating,” said Johnson.

Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) is working on an amendment to keep funding for the program at its current level.

The MTAA board will not make any decisions until the FAA releases its list Friday.