Federal budget 'sequestration' could close 4 Minn. air traffic control towers

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If the automatic federal budget cuts known as "sequestration" go into effect March 1, the Federal Aviation Administration says it will have to slash $600 million from its budget -- a move that would affect at least four air traffic control towers in Minnesota, MinnPost reports.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood detailed the scenario Friday in Washington, D.C. He warned that travelers could expect delays as soon as April, as furloughs, as well as other staffing reductions of air traffic controllers and closures of smaller air traffic control towers, would take place nationwide.

On the FAA's list of closures are air traffic control towers at Anoka County-Blaine Airport, Flying Cloud Airport, Crystal Airport and St. Cloud Regional Airport.

Despite the threat of closures, Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Pat Hogan told MinnPost the closures "wouldn't have a dramatic impact on pilots using the airports" since at least three of them -- Anoka County-Blaine Airport, Flying Cloud and Crystal -- don't service commercial flights and are used for general aviation.

Hogan also noted that a lot of similar airports around the country already operate without air traffic control towers.

The St. Cloud airport, meanwhile, does service commercial flights, but Minnesota Public Radio's Bob Collins -- who is a pilot -- said "in the absence of a controller, there are radio procedures for keeping an orderly flow of traffic."

Hogan does not have details yet on how the air traffic control furloughs would affect Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Read LaHood's detailed announcement of the budget cuts here.

If federal lawmakers don't come to a budget agreement by next Friday, about $85 billion in cuts are set to take effect.

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