61
      Monday
      85 / 61
      Tuesday
      87 / 63
      Wednesday
      84 / 63

      Sawyer International awaits FAA decision on tower closure

      The future of the air traffic control tower at Sawyer International Airport remains uncertain as of Monday afternoon.

      The tower is one of 173 across the country on the chopping block, as the FAA is forced to make $600 million in automatic federal budget cuts. A final announcement on the closure was expected to come from the FAA on Monday.

      Meantime, Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran has put an amendment before the Senate that would provide $50 million to keep contract towers open for the rest of the fiscal year. That could be up for consideration soon.

      The possible closing of Sawyer's tower has fliers worried about safety.

      "I just hope that somehow they can safely land us, as I travel about 25-30 weeks a year," said Scott Hostetler.

      Reliability is another concern as weather conditions would be monitored from a larger airport.

      "They won't have as good of a grasp on the weather, so there will be more cancellations unnecessarily because of the weather not being controlled by the local tower," said David Graser.

      Graser flies out of Sawyer about four times a month. He also said losing the tower would diminish Sawyer's marketability and chance for future passenger flights.

      "To artificially limit that by removing the tower, I think, is shortsighted," he said.

      Airport Manager Duane Duray said no one knows when an announcement about the tower could be made.

      "It is an asset to the airport; we would desire that it would stay open," Duray said.

      The airport can operate without a tower. The old Marquette County Airport operated without one for decades, but the tower at Sawyer adds a level of security.

      Military training operations that run through Sawyer about four or five times a month would be cancelled. Duray said it is also likely that Air Force One would not bring another president to town. President George W. Bush visited Marquette in 2004, and President Barack Obama stopped in Marquette in 2011.

      "I would expect that any more presidential flights would not take place into an uncontrolled airfield," he said.

      Five people would lose their jobs if the tower is closed.

      Rep. Dan Benishek (R), Sen. Carl Levin (D) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) have all voiced their support for Sawyer's tower.

      "I'm hoping that the local population here really reaches out and talks about the true economic benefit of having the tower in operation here, and we can address that through legislative means," Graser added.