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ARLINGTON Charter, cargo, corporate and student pilots depend on the extra eyes inside the control tower at Arlington Municipal Airport to keep them safe.

But federal budget cuts could shut down the tower in April, leaving pilots on their own.

Flight instructor Ryan McGinnis is worried about the impending closure. "Anything that hinders safety is obviously a concern," he said. "It cost somebody a lot of money to make, and it doesn't make any sense to close it now."

The FAA, the state, and the city spent more than $25 million in renovations at the airport, including building the tower. The investment was made to relieve traffic from Dallas/Fort Worth International and Dallas Love Field airports.

"It is frustrating to think that investment may not pay off the way it could," said airport manger Karen Van Winkle.

Seven controllers and a manager inside the FAA contract tower would be affected, but other jobs are also in jeopardy.

"We expect some layoffs to begin here at some of our businesses immediately," Van Winkle said.

Twenty business operate on the site. Three of them have delayed their expansions because of unanswered questions about control tower staffing.

"This is because their business model and their insurance don't allow them to operate in an uncontrolled air space," Van Winkle said.

The airport manager told WFAA about $360,000 from the city would be required to keep the tower open for the rest of the year.

Arlington and the other 18 Texas airports facing the same tower problem are also looking into a co-op to provide services.

Either option would require City Council approval.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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