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Budget Cuts Ground 5 Md. Air Traffic Control Towers

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LINTHICUM, Md. (WJZ) — The FAA announced Friday it will shut down the air traffic control towers of five smaller Maryland airports because of the government’s forced budget cuts.

Monique Griego explains why this could create problems at BWI Marshall.

Martin State Airport is one of the five set to have its tower shut down. It acts as a reliever for BWI, which could mean more delays.

The air traffic control tower at Frederick Municipal Airport is one of five in Maryland that will soon shut down because of sequestration’s forced budget cuts.

Nationwide, the FAA is closing 149 low volume towers.

“It’s scary because I’m going to have to figure out something else to do for an income,” said Mamie Ambrose, air traffic controller.

Statewide, control towers at Frederick, Hagerstown, Salisbury, Easton and Martin State Airport will stop working April 27.

“There are thousands of airports across the country that operate without air traffic control towers,” said Jonathan Dean.

Jonathan Dean from the Maryland Aviation Administration says the airports themselves will likely continue operations, even if on a smaller scale.

“There are certain procedures in place–safety procedures, navigation and communication procedures–that pilots follow,” he said.

The closings could have an effect on travel at BWI because it will have to pick up the slack from those other airports.

“Without Martin State, without the tower there, there could be additional flight delays at BWI,” said Dean.

The FAA says while flyers may be inconvenienced, safety will not be compromised. But some air traffic controllers and pilots don’t think it can guarantee that.

“There’s going to be close calls, there’s going to be midairs, there’s going to be a runway accident,” said Craig Fuller, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. “Something is going to happen and then we’re going to review this decision.”

Several of the control towers set to close in Maryland petitioned the FAA to stay open but were denied.

Maryland aviation leaders say although towers start shutting down April 7, it will be a gradual process.

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