Former airport director: CWA tower closure could delay flights - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Former airport director: CWA tower closure could delay flights


We're learning more about what could happen when the tower closes at Central Wisconsin Airport.

The airport has enjoyed its control tower for more than 20 years. It opened in 1992.

Newsline 9 talked exclusively with the man who basically built it. He says the closing, which is set to occur June 15 due to federal budget cuts, could hit passengers in a big way.

"I'm very sad to see that it's closing," said James Hansford, who managed the airport for almost 25 years. He played a big role in building the tower.

"The towers at these 140 airports are essential economically and safety-wise to all of those communities," said Hansford.

Airport officials say there are several potential problems with the closing of the tower. For example, let's say a plane landed but didn't close its flight plan and another plane is waiting in the sky to land. Controllers in Minneapolis would have to scramble to figure out if the runway is clear. That could take time, and if it took too long, it could even send the waiting plane back to where it came from.

Hansford says he's seen that situation happen, and he expects it will happen again.

"It's going to be those unfortunate incidents every once in a while that will cause some inconvenience," he said.

Tony Yaron, the current airport manager, agrees.

"If you don't have a tower that knows that that aircraft has landed, and that pilot does not close that plan, everything stops," said Yaron.

Newsline 9 contacted the Federal Aviation Administration. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory told us that scenario does happen from time to time, but that controllers in Minneapolis can always contact the airport operations manager if there's a question about the runway.

In the end, Cory said, "it's a pilot's responsibility to close out the flight plans."

Hansford knows that, but he can't help worrying about what will happen when the tower shuts down.

"I really hate to see it close," he said.

Central Wisconsin Airport is working on joining a lawsuit to challenge the closure. The airport manager says that could be finalized by the end of the week.

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