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Joplin Regional Airport unaffected by furloughs for now - KOAM TV 7

Joplin Regional Airport unaffected by furloughs for now

Updated:

Air traffic controllers in Joplin keep working as furloughs start at other airports across the country.

Air traffic controllers are now required to lose one day of work every other week.

The new schedule is supposed to help the Federal Aviation Administration operate under a tighter budget.

Pilots are trained to fly without the direction of air controllers.  But pilots say safety is compromised.  Sometimes pilots may get distracted by instruments and not realize another plane is nearby.

That's why pilots in Joplin say though the airport may be small, there's enough traffic to need that extra guidance.

John Cooper is a contracted air traffic controller in Joplin, which means he isn't unionized like FAA air controllers.  He can do more work but gets paid less from the government.

"It is important to save the government money and that's what we do," says Cooper.

A few months ago Cooper learned about sequestration, that the FAA was cutting its budget and planned to close 149 air traffic control centers across the country beginning April 7.

Cooper wondered what to do and where to go.

"If they close Joplin or Branson, it's not that big of a deal - if they close 149 other towers then we're not employable with the FAA due to our age, we're not employable with any of the other contract companies," says Cooper.

He's still employed in Joplin for now.

The airport is funded by both the FAA and the City of Joplin, but FAA funds for Joplin will run out in September.  As of now no one knows who's going to cover that void.

Cooper may still be out of a job and pilots in Joplin will be left coordinating traffic only among themselves.

"Rather than close the program they really should expand the program and open other towers to the contract tower program," Cooper says.

Again, Monday was the first business day air controllers at other airports affected operated under the sequestration cuts.

Good weather may have eased possible congestion.  Some airports in this region have reported few, if any, delays.  Other airports, especially on the East Coast, reported numerous delays.

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