Federal sequestration cuts will shut down Columbia's airport control tower

Mar 22, 2013

Columbia Regional Airport logo
Credit File Photo / KBIA

On Friday, the Columbia Regional Airport received notice that its control tower was among 149 around the country[PDF] that would close as a result of federal sequestration cuts. The closure is expected to take place at some point between April 7 and May 7.

"What this means," Sapp says. "Is that we don’t have anybody with boots on the ground here that’s standing in a tower watching the traffic take place."

Columbia Public Works spokesperson Steven Sapp says the airport will rely on Springfield-based Mizzou Approach Control for landing and departure communications.

The Columbia Tribune reports that Mizzou Approach "provides traffic control throughout the state. Rather than contractors, Mizzou Approach is staffed with FAA employees, and with employee furloughs expected, there could be fewer traffic controllers watching more planes."

Sapp says that public safety crews on the ground at Columbia Regional Airport will be responsible for identifying hazards below 50 feet, which is below what Mizzou Approach Control can monitor.

The city currently has a revenue guarantee with American Airlines. If the closure affected the airline's business at COU, Columbia taxpayers could be on the line for part of the two-year, $3 million deal. Sapp says that it's not a problem right now as American Airlines doesn't plan on altering their operations in Columbia. He noted that American Airlines serves several airports around the country that aren't currently served by air traffic control.

The air traffic control tower in Branson is expected to remain open. Missouri's "cost-share" towers (towers that are partially funded by municipalities) will remain open. That includes The Jefferson City Memorial airport tower and the tower serving Branson Airport. Here's the complete list of tower closures.