A list released by the Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday shows 173 airports that could have control towers closed through mandatory funding cuts. Eight Washington airports, including Paine Field, Renton, Tacoma and Olympia would be affected.
Nationwide, the air traffic control towers are located at small-to-medium airports without commercial flights. Closures would begin April 7.
Most staff affected are contract employees, not FAA workers.
While companies that provide that workforce were upset by the news, pilots at Paine Field said it would not jeopardize safety.
“The FAA will publish information and we’ll use it,” said President of the Washington Pilots Association Les Smith. “We’ll be able to operate safely in and out of this field.”
Paine Field’s control tower already goes dark between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Even though Boeing uses the airport frequently, Smith said pilots of big jets and small private planes already communicate frequently without the tower.
“It wouldn’t be the end of the world,” Smith commented, “It wouldn’t be inherently dangerous.”