Sequestration Could Affect Forbes Field

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Similar to the fiscal cliff issue, lawmakers in Washington failed to decide on the sequestration issue, the deadline passing.

Federal agencies across the country could feel the setbacks if the $83 billion in cuts goes through for the fiscal year 2013. The sequester was originally set to compel congress to balance the budget.

The cuts would mean significant changes to Forbes Field in Topeka. More traffic goes in and out of there than some may think.

The air traffic tower at Forbes Field already operates nightly without a controller. With lawmakers in Washington up in the air about a decision for budget cuts, sequestration could mean no controller - ever.

Eric Johnson, President of Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority, and said getting rid of a controller wasn't something he planned. "This is certainly not our idea," he said. "It's not something I want to see happen, but we're talking about 238 airports across the country that this is a possibility."

Airports all across Kansas will hear from the Federal Aviation Administration as to whether their tower will close. According to Wells Fargo, Kansas is among the states most affected by the sequester.

Governor Sam Brownback said cuts will affect the entire state. "It'll have an impact, there's no question about it," he said. "I think you're going to see the federal government wrestle with this for the next five years."

The absence of a controller poses a safety issue for military trainees.

General Manager of Million Air Topeka Walt Frederick sees it affecting how many aircrafts fly into Forbes. "It won't be as safe. There are students flying with instructors and they like the security blanekt of an air traffic controller."

MIlitary traffic makes up fifty percent of traffic and Forbes Field.

"They will still come in and out of here," Frederick said, "but they've lost that extra bit of safety."

Forbes makes money off every gallon of gas Million-Air sells, so the threat of losing money is added to the threat of losing safety.

Each agency will be forced to adjust.

"We'll work through whatever takes place and provide as safe a facility as we can," Johnson said.

Still, the issue looms.

"It's nice to know someone's watching us," Johson said, "that's the safety feature that I can't understand we'd do away with."

Seven towers in Kansas airports could be closed if sequestration cuts are put into effect. Both Forbes Field and Billard Field in Topeka are on the list.