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Federal Budget Cuts Could Slow Down Travel At Local Airports

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By Oren Liebermann

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia International Airport handles more than 30 million passengers a year, and they all have one thing in common: they want their flights to be on time.

But as the FAA faces $600 million in cuts, you had better get used to delays.

“These cuts are going to be difficult to work with and hopefully, this is short-lived,” says Don Chapman, an air traffic controller at the airport. “But we don’t know.”

The FAA could close control towers at three local airports and scale back on controller staffing at others. The burden of handling those flights falls on Philly. Chapman says passenger do not have to worry about safety, since that is always a top priority, but they should get comfortable at the airport.

“Taking on the additional traffic while we’re also cutting our own staffing could create a situation where it’s going to create delays for people flying in and out of Philadelphia,” Chapman says.

Trenton-Mercer is one of the local airports, including New Castle County Airpark and Northeast Philadelphia Airport, that could lose its tower. Pilots would still be able to fly in and out, but Frontier Airlines, the airport’s only commercial airline, may leave instead of going through with its planned expansion.

Without a tower, everything is slower.

“It’s going to be a waiting game,” says Joan Jones, the coordinator of the Aviation Program at Mercer County Community College. “It’s going to be delays and more delays and more delays, even on the nice days.”

“They are kind of our ears and eyes. We still teach our students to listen and to see and avoid, but for the most part, they sequence the traffic appropriately,” says Judie Stillwagon, Chief Flight Instructor at the community college.

The tower closures are scheduled for April 7th, meaning you may have less than a month until flights at Philadelphia International Airport start to slow down.

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