Two western Kentucky airports will close their air traffic control facilities in April after the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday mandated the shutdowns because of budget cuts.
Pilots flying into and out of Owensboro-Daviess County Airport in Owensboro and Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah will be responsible for keeping proper distance from each other while in the air and for their own safety during takeoffs and landings.
During bad weather, the FAA tower in Memphis, Tenn., will monitor the airspace around Paducah. The FAA tower in Evansville, Ind., about 34 miles away, will monitor Owensboro's airspace in rough weather.
The two control towers were among 149 hit with closure by the FAA, which is being forced to trim $637 million for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. Both the Owensboro and Paducah airports host commercial commuter airlines.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the $85 billion in broad-based federal spending cuts due to take effect on Friday "modest" and downplayed risks that the reductions would damage the nation's economy.
The Kentucky Republican's outlook on the potential ripple effects the cuts might have on a still-fragile economy differed starkly from officials in President Barack Obama's administration, who warned of dire consequences.
"This is a quite modest reduction," McConnell told reporters at Louisville's airport. "We ought to be doing a lot more than this."
The White House recently put out a news release showing that a cross-section of Kentuckians would feel the budget cuts.
"Worst case, we're looking at $535,000 in lost funding for our district alone," Saylor said. "We don't want to scare anyone. We don't like giving bad news, but if nothing changes, we're like everyone else. Eventually you have to cut jobs."