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Airport air controllers on federal cut list

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A stalemate over federal spending could trigger automatic cuts that would put Columbus' airport tower in danger of closing, and jeopardize other local programs.

Columbus Municipal Airport is on a list of 200 airports nationwide with 150,000 or fewer annual flights that face losing federal funding to operate their control towers. The federal Transportation Department said it planned to close 100 of those towers if the spending cuts go into effect March 1.

Columbus' tower operates from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., airport director Brian Payne said. It is staffed by a pool of five controllers. Two work on any given day, each working eight hours. The operating budget for the tower and its controllers is supported entirely with federal funds, Payne said.

The Columbus airport would continue to operate, even if its tower closed, said Payne. Only 12 of the state's 116 public-use landing facilities — including 69 airports — and more than 500 landing facilities including private fields, have control towers, he noted. The Transportation Department proposes closing six of that dozen.

See Tuesday's Republic for more details.

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