Airport tower on sequester chopping block

By The Mercury

Within the next few weeks, city officials expect to learn whether the control tower at Manhattan Regional Airport will be among 100 closed nationally by the FAA as a result of sequestration cuts.

A list released this week by the Department of Transportation identifies the 200 airports, including seven in Kansas, as candidates for closure in the event the sequestration cuts have to be put into effect. The other six Kansas airports on the list are Forbes and Phillip Billard, both in Topeka, Garden City Regional, Hutchinson Municipal, and New Century Air Center and Johnson County Executive Center, both in Olathe.

The $85 billion in spending cuts are scheduled to hit Friday, although they wouldn’t actually go into effect until March 27, when the current federal spending resolution expires. Republican lawmakers and President Obama are sparring over whether to replace the cuts with a proposal Obama favors to close tax loopholes in combination with targeted spending cuts, or whether to focus entirely on spending reductions, the approach favored by Republicans. If there is no agreement, the sequestration cuts are automatically implemented.

The airports on the list have 150,000 flights or fewer each year. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said decisions on which ones will be closed will come out of meetings the FAA has with air-traffic controllers and airlines.

Officials at Manhattan Regional Airport could not be reached Thursday for comment on the potential impact of loss of the tower. City manager Ron Fehr acknowledged Wednesday that the potential existed for impacts on airport-related operations, but voiced hope that things would not come to that point.

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