Sequester cuts could force closure of Sonoma airport control tower


Passengers don't like the idea of getting on a plane with no one in the control tower.

"That doesn't sound like a good idea to me; that's not a real comfortable feeling," airline passenger Chris Kemp said.

"I don't want to fly with no one telling us what's going on up there," passenger Frank Lubich said.

But the airport manager says it's already happening twice a day.

"Two out of their 10 flights a day right now happen when the tower is closed, so their operating certificate allows it they're used to dealing with it and they're telling us there should be no changes," Jon Stout said.

Stout says he should know in about three weeks whether or not the FAA will try to close the tower or just force unpaid furlough days onto the 14 controllers who work there now.

"It's a bad idea; during areas of high traffic there could be a disaster," private pilot Ken Hill said.

Hill flew in from Placerville and thinks the government ought to find somewhere else to cut. But that's the thing about the sequester, with few exceptions, it's pretty much across the board.

The Cal Fire air station is currently closed, but this coming fire season it'll be open and the airport manager tells us having a tower could be critical.

"And with the tower here they can give them emergency priority and get them out and back in as quick as possible and if the tower is closed they won't get that priority treatment," Stout said.

None of the controllers would talk publicly about the current negotiations, but the owner of the Skylounge restaurant says he has friends who work in the tower and the scuttlebutt is that a compromise is in the works.

"My best guess is there will be a compromise with the labor force that's in the tower and they'll have to have probably a few furlough days a month to keep the tower in existence because it would be very vital to this airport to keep that tower open," Jim Goff said.

Once the FAA announces its intention for the tower, the airport will have an opportunity to plead its case. That announcement is expected the first week in April.

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