Sequestration could impact First Coast aviation | News

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Sequestration could impact First Coast aviation
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If Congress does not act by Friday, automatic spending cuts could go into effect. It's known as sequestration. One area that could be impacted: our nation's airports. Especially some of the smaller ones. That includes a number of airports on the First Coast.

Of the 200 airports on the list, the Transportation Department could close control towers at 100 of them by April 1st. That includes 20 small airports in Florida. It's too early to really determine how many jobs could be cut. 

Here on the First Coast, that would impact Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport, Cecil Field and Northeast Florida Regional in St. Augustine. Jacksonville University assistant professor of Aeronautics Wayne Ziskal said that will immediately impact safety. 

"And really the worst part is if we have airplanes that are not separated properly, somebody might get hurt and that would be a silly, a very silly result of political gamesmanship," he said.

If you think this won't impact you because you don't use those airports, there's actually more to the story. Those three airports are economic drivers in our local economy. U.S. Representative Ander Crenshaw. 

"I think the sequester is something that we all ought to be concerned about," he said.

If the cuts do happen, Ziskal said the local airport authorities need to work on an alternate plan, to make sure people using smaller planes still have the ability and desire to fly to the First Coast. If not, he believes our economy could suffer.

"Business impact is if it ever happened to be in the long-term and these airports closed down, it would be quite dramatic," Ziskal said.

There could also be cutbacks at larger airports, as Congress looks to reduce the overall air-traffic controller staff.

We spoke with representatives from Jacksonville International Airport. They say it is too early to speculate on any possible impacts, because federal leaders have not yet made any decisions.

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