Airport plans to sue FAA

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CHARLOTTE COUNTY - Punta Gorda Airport officials recently learned the FAA plans to shut down their control tower.  Now they plan to sue.

The airport's authority board has decided to join a potential lawsuit with other facilities that are slated to close as well.

Small airports like the one in Punta Gorda can provide an easier way to travel. "It's nice to fly out of a little airport. It's not so busy." With the recent news of closures to the control tower here and at 148 other airports around the country travelers like Christine Provost are surprised. "What, you are going to have a walkie talkie guy on the ground flying the airplanes in?"

The move was a part of millions in cuts by the FAA under what is called the sequestration. Airport director Gary Quill has another name for it. "We are calling this si-frustration."

Quill says they will join the lawsuit if they need to. "It was supposed to be about a five to eight percent cut in the various federal departments. What in fact we are finding is it's very selective. 75% of the contract tower program has been cut."

Claiming the FAA has not followed their own guidelines. Quill says the federal agency could have absorbed the cuts by not hiring additional people at other airports for the rest of the year. Going on to say that shutting down nearly 150 towers at once is simply dangerous. "This is a safety issue. There may be loss of human life. This is an irresponsible action."

Those like John Mifflin have a flight back home after the towers are to be shut. "I have no problems going out on a daytime flight. The pilots are trained to deal with that. I would hesitate to go out here in the dark."

The Punta Gorda airport has only had its $4 million tower for a little more than a year. Quill says the demands are growing. Now with more than 70,000 take offs and landings. A mixture of small planes with commercial. "That speed differential is why we have the tower. We are asking them to act responsibly."

Quill says the agency has a responsibility for safety first. Proviost's young daughter Ashleigh says it makes sense. "Having no tower, I just wouldn't think it was safe."

If something doesn't change the tower will stop overseeing flights by the end of April.

Allegiant Air which operates out of the Punta Gorda airport says no flights are being canceled. They say all of their pilots are trained to fly in and out with or without control towers.