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Aviation lawyer: Closing control towers is 'political game'

Aviation attorney and Arizona State University Professor Michael Pearson said the skies are as safe as they've ever been, despite the FAA announcement that 149 control towers would be shut down.

Four of the towers are in Arizona: Phoenix-Goodyear Airport, Glendale Municipal Airport, Laughlin-Bullhead International Airport and Ryan Field in Tucson. The announcement was made last week.

Closures will begin to take effect April 7.

The decision made some people nervous about pilots directing air traffic themselves.

"This isn't a new thing. This goes on at airports across the country that do not have air-traffic controllers," said Pearson.

"A lot of commercial airports with air-traffic controllers will lose their controlling staffing at certain time, but commercial flights will come in after the controllers are off and land at the airport."

The decision to close the control towers is all part of a larger political game, according to Pearson.

As a former control-tower operator, he said he's seen the federal agency try to scare the public with similar rhetoric.

"Lots of folks travel and lots of folks don't know the ins and outs of the way the FAA operates and the way the system operates," Pearson said. "So they threaten to close certain facilities and people get nervous, they talk to their politicians to bend to the will."

As for his students who want to become tower-control operators, Pearson has been telling them jobs will still be there.

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