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Hawkins Field Air Traffic Control Tower in Jackson is One of Seven in State to Shut Down

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 12 Mar 2013 06:04pm | comments
The air traffic control tower at Hawkins Field in Jackson. Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The air traffic control tower at Hawkins Field in Jackson is one of seven scheduled to be shut down in  Mississippi due to federal sequestration cuts. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports how the cuts are raising concerns over jobs, safety and reduced service.

Dozens of general aviation, military and corporate jet pilots fly in and out of Jackson's Hawkins Field every day. Dirk Vanderleest is the  Chief Executive Officer for the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. He says beginning April seventh instead of having air traffic controllers to communicate with,  pilots will have to rely on each other.

"You'll be taxing on your own but you'll be communicating in the air space. So if someone is attempting to land you'll be hearing that communication and you'll have to give them the right away until such time they have landed. Then you have the right to take off." 

Even though Hawkins Field will continue to operate without it's five air traffic controllers it raises a red flag for Madison pilot and flight instructor Clayton Gressett.

"You know the unfortunate reality is sometimes there are pilots that don't exactly follow the rules. So it makes me feel a little better knowing  that there is an individual controller separating you from other airplanes which in some point in times you can suddenly see aircraft at the last second. Whereas a controller will give you a heads-up."

In addition to safety, Hawkins Field Manager, Mark Pyonov is also concerned about the economic impact shutting down the control towers will have on the facility.

"Some of our customers I think that will be impacted are even gonna gonna be some of the corporate flyers. You know executive flyers or business flyers.  Some of them will have a policy implemented in their manuals that we don't fly into an airport that doesn't have a tower. So that's gonna effect us tremendously."

Other air control towers in Mississippi that will be affected by budget cuts are located in Greenville, Columbus, Bay St Louis, Meridian, Olive Branch and Tupelo.  Lawayne Childrey MPB News.



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