Small communities in south and central Indiana are worried the loss of controlled airfields could hurt their businesses, and the local economy after the Federal Aviation Administration last week announced plans to close nearly 200 airport control towers across the country.
The Monroe County airport’s tower is one of several in Indiana slated for closure even though it has a runway large enough to land a 747. On a normal day though, it might see several dozen general aviation flights, a few regional corporate jets, and even a large charter airliner bringing a Big Ten sports team into town.
Airport manager Bruce Payton says even though the FAA may not require a tower for those flights to land, having controlled airspace is a safety benefit to everyone associated with the airport.
“We’re mixing large, sophisticated aircraft that move much faster, with people who are just taking their first solo flight perhaps, or the non professional pilot that just flies on occasion out here,” he says.
He says the diversity of equipment coming into Monroe County is what helps drive the airport’s businesses. While no one is quite sure how the airport will be impacted by a loss of a control tower, it has many in the community concerned.
Indiana University Spokesman Mark Land says the university has more than 100 flights that leave the airport every year.
“Athletic teams, the president, sometimes university officials, we fly in or out of the airport, people who come to visit the university,” he says.
Instead of flying into Monroe County airport and making the short drive into Bloomington, he says, more flights could be diverted to Indianapolis.
The Monroe County airport is slated to lose its tower later this year, while Columbus’ tower could be closed at the end of the month.