FAA mulls flight control cuts at Des Moines, Omaha
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Airport control towers in Des Moines and Omaha could go dark during overnight hours and smaller airports could lose their traffic controllers completely if the federal government follows through with a plan to reduce costs as part of automatic spending cuts.
The Federal Aviation Administration has said it may furlough air traffic controllers, eliminating overnight shifts at 72 airports beginning in early April. Included in a list of possible affected airports are Eppley Airfield in Omaha and Des Moines International Airport.
Executives at both airports expect no disruption. Des Moines flights end at 11 p.m. and Omaha's last commercial flight is midnight. Currently, the air traffic control towers are manned around the clock at both airports.
Planes could still land and take off without controllers because all pilots are trained to use electronic Instrument Landing System equipment.
"It's always better to have the tower, but if it happens we will make sure it's safe and make sure it's efficient," said Don Smithey, the Des Moines airport's executive director.
He said any flights that would need to operate outside the tower hours could be directed from the Minneapolis air traffic control center. The controllers there would guide landing planes down to 2,500 feet. The Instrument Landing System would guide the jet to within five miles of the airport. From there, the pilot would approach the runway and land normally.
Omaha Airport Authority Executive Director Steve Coufal said it's too early to discuss how the FAA's plan would affect the airport because the government hasn't released any specific plan.
"Regardless of how this ends up being managed, our focus has been and continues to be on maintaining normal operations in a safe manner," he said.