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Furloughs may limit Killeen airport

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Posted: Saturday, March 30, 2013 4:30 am

Sequestration-related budget cuts will cause diminished hours for air traffic controllers at the Fort Hood control tower.

The joint-use facility is used to direct commercial and military airplanes taking off and landing at Robert Gray Army Airfield and Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.

Civilian furloughs, expected to begin in June, will close the Fort Hood air traffic control tower daily between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the Fort Hood Sentinel reported this month.

The tower is currently operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The furloughs pose a problem for at least one of the three major commercial airlines: American Eagle, which has arrivals as late as 11:25 p.m. six days per week.

“We won’t know (how it will affect us) until they actually withdraw, but I’m sure it will affect it in some way,” said Justin Vasquez, station agent for American Eagle at the airport.

The diminished hours are also likely to prevent diverted planes or emergency landings from coming to the airport.

“They would probably have to send them to Austin,” Vasquez said.

Despite the limited hours for commercial flights at the city-run airport, operators do not predict a major decrease in airport use.

“The city of Killeen does not expect a change in tower operation hours to have any significant impact on air carrier service,” city spokeswoman Hilary Shine said.

At Fort Hood, the air traffic control closures will limit all live-fire ranges, airfields, auxiliary airstrips and unmanned aerial systems during furlough hours, the Sentinel reported.

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