San Marcos airport to lose tower personnel

The San Marcos Municipal Airport announced March 22 that it will be losing its air traffic controllers because of federal budget cuts.

Aviation Director Stephen Alexander said the funding for the traffic controllers will end as early as April 7. There are currently six full-time correspondents at the tower that the Federal Aviation Administration will no longer fund.

Alexander said the airport is waiting on final confirmation from the FAA for when the funding will end.

"We are working with all the various agencies including the City of San Marcos, Hays and Caldwell County and the Texas Department of Transportation to look at other avenues for funding," Alexander said. "We will continue to work with the FAA to see if there is any kind of relief for maintaining the funding."

The San Marcos Municipal Airport is one of 149 airports throughout the nation losing federal funding for its contracted air traffic control tower. If the funding is not restored or if an alternate funding source is not found, the San Marcos airport will revert to an uncontrolled airport.

An uncontrolled airport means the tower will not be staffed, and there will be no air traffic controllers. The tower currently operates 12 hours a day from 7 a.m.–7 p.m.

"This will certainly affect San Marcos. It will be a reduction of a second set of eyes directing planes," Alexander said. "But we've operated without a tower before, and the airport will continue to operate. But we would sure like to have the tower continue to operate."

The tower opened in 2011, so Alexander said his staff understands how to operate an uncontrolled airport. He said he loves having the tower and the additional safety it provides.

"Our goal is to maintain that [tower] operation. If not, the airport will continue with a significantly decreased presence of additional sets of eyes looking after traffic," Alexander said. "But at the moment, there is no timeline for bringing the employees back."

Alexander said the loss of tower personnel leaves the airport with two options.

"No. 1 is to continue to work with the FAA to try and restore that funding," Alexander said. "No. 2 is if that funding is going to go away permanently, what are the options we can do from there? What are the alternative funding sources we can do on a local or state level?"

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