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Pilot training schools could pull out of the Valley

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GOODYEAR, AZ (CBS5) -

Pilot training centers at two of the Valley's airports could leave the Phoenix area because of FAA cuts to control tower funding.

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced plans to close tower operations at 149 airports nationwide, including four in Arizona. The list includes:

  • Glendale Municipal Airport, Glendale
  • Phoenix Goodyear Airport, Goodyear
  • Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport, Bullhead City
  • Ryan Field, Tucson

Aviation industry experts say cuts to the Valley airports will affect safety, jobs and the local economy.

The Airline Training Center Arizona has been based out of the Goodyear Airport for the past 43 years. ATCA is a training ground for the German national commercial air carrier, Lufthansa. Goodyear Airport is where Lufthansa's pilots learn to fly on single-prop Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft.

Because of the FAA cuts, the company is considering pulling its training center out of Goodyear altogether.

"We all really can't believe this is happening," says Capt. Matthias Kippenberg of ATCA. "We feel a safety standard we want to hold up cannot be ensured without a control tower here."

ATCA isn't the only company affected by the cuts at Goodyear Airport. Lux Air Jet Centers is the exclusive fuel supplier to the airport.

"For us as a business, there will be a revenue impact. We're estimating about a $200,000-a-year hit," says Tim Berger with Lux.

The FAA cuts are the talk of the tarmac today in Goodyear. Most of the talk has people frustrated about the inability of U.S. political leaders to reach consensus on a budget.

"No leadership from the White House," says Berger. "They are playing with the integrity of the air traffic control network. If the Senate got serious about putting in good spending priorities, this could be solved in just a few weeks time."

The same problem is being felt at the Glendale Airport, where officials are taking the news hard and trying to work quickly on what the next steps will be.

Officials say they will attempt to find other funding sources to keep the control tower in operation.

"The impact can definitely be from a business standpoint, an economic standpoint. A number of businesses have invested in the airport and the surrounding area," says Glendale City Spokeswoman Jennifer Stein.

The FAA cuts will be implemented over a four-week period beginning April 7.

There are six full-time air traffic controllers who work in both the Goodyear and Glendale airports. Those control towers are staffed by contractors with the company Serco, which is based out of northern Virginia.

CBS5 attempted to reach the company for comment but were unsuccessful.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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