FAA closing two Central Illinois air traffic control towers


Nearly 150 air traffic control towers around the country will close, that includes two here in Central Illinois at the Decatur Airport and at Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington-Normal.

The FAA said the closings are the result of automatic budget cuts. Flights at these airports will not stop but they will be controlled by towers at regional locations, instead of at the actual airport.

The Decatur Airport Director said fliers should not be concerned about this tower closing. He added the FAA wouldn't be shutting it down if it wasn't safe.

But the Dale Robling Manager of Decatur Air Traffic Control Operations said that pilots operating without local air traffic controllers is not safe. Pilots are going to be expected to communicate with each other instead of being able to rely on air traffic controllers as an extra set of eyes. There could be oversights like not noticing wildlife on the runway or sudden weather changes and he said flights will be slower because planes will be expected to go in and out one at a time.

"That was our job, to make sure that we get the right aircraft, aircraft characteristics in the right place at the right time and we've been doing that safely for 17 years here in Decatur," Robling said.

Without air traffic control towers, there are certain planes that can no longer use the Decatur Airport.

"There are corporations out there that fly into Decatur that provide business for this community and several of those corporations cannot fly in here without a control tower, so they'll have to go elsewhere to do their business," Robling said.

About 40,000 to 50,000 flights go through the Decatur Airport annually.

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