FAA cuts could mean big changes at Phoenix, Glendale, and Goodyear airports

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Potential federal budget cuts due to sequestration have major changes coming to airports.

The FAA would cut the number of air traffic controllers.

“When you cut personnel, it affects everything,” pilot and aviation expert Jim Tilmon told 3TV.

Tilmon said fewer federal employees at airports would translate to longer lines at TSA and Customs checkpoints.

Plus, with fewer air traffic controllers to guide planes, Tilmon expects the gap between landing aircrafts to double, leading to delays.

"Come to the airport with a huge dose of patience,” he said.

Tilmon recommends booking direct flights, if possible, for the coming months. If that isn’t possible, he said to have a longer buffer for layovers, in case your flight is caught in a holding pattern waiting to land.

Pilots at smaller airports would see major changes.

Glendale and Goodyear Municipal Airports in the Valley would lose their air traffic control towers under sequestration.

They are two of 100 nationwide to lose towers, and were chosen because they have fewer than 150,000 flights per year.

The airports would remain open, but pilots would have to rely on pilot-to-pilot communication, rather than someone in the tower.

“In Phoenix, it’s safer talking to the tower because there’s so much air traffic out here,” pilot Rick Carney told 3TV.

Pilots at training schools, along with medical helicopter crews, and private pilots, would have to manage taking off and landing without an extra set of eyes on the ground.

“I don’t imagine it’ll be catastrophic, but it’s not as safe without a pro in the tower keeping track of the traffic,” added pilot Jim Stark, who flies out of Goodyear.

The cuts can still be avoided, if Congress acts within the next few days.