Federal cuts leave Ramona pilots feeling turbulence

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RAMONA, Calif. – Taking off and landing at the Ramona Airport will soon be in the hands of the pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday the closures of 149 air traffic control towers nationwide.

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 5.21.23 PMThe closures are part of $600 million in federal cuts the agency must absorb.

“Mostly I fly out of Ramona,” said pilot, Daniel Callan.   “We get a lot of traffic here.  It would probably be hard to sequence it all through without the tower.”

The airport will be without a tower come April 7th.  Ramona is on the FAA’s hit list of 149 air traffic control towers.  Brown Field near Otay Mesa is the other San Diego airport on the list.

“That is very much of a concern to us,” said Chuck Hall of Chuck Hall Aviation.

Hall’s been serving pilots with gas and hangar rentals since the first days of the Ramona Airport.

“The traffic has increased considerably in the last 30 years,” said Hall.

Not only more aircraft, but Hall said also planes of wide varying speeds.

“With those speed differences, it’s critical that we have a control tower to keep the airplanes apart,” said Hall.Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 5.22.08 PM

Without an air traffic control tower, pilots can only rely on radio and themselves.

“It’s going to be up to the pilots operating the planes here to watch out for other traffic and keep from having mid-air collisions,” said Hall.

Hall said there was no air traffic control tower in the airport’s beginning days.  However, he said history should not repeat itself.

“We had three deaths here due to mid-air collisions,” recalled Hall.  “Since the tower’s been here there have been no problems whatsoever.”

Lack of control will not ground pilots, but they say future flights may have to be on a wing and a prayer.

“It just  takes one mistake for things to go wrong,” said Callan.

“Most of us are all professionals.  We just have to be very, very careful,” said Hall.

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