SMYRNA, Tenn. -- Big changes could be coming to the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport if automatic federal budget cuts go into effect next week.
The cuts, known as "sequestration," are set to go into effect March 1, if lawmakers can't reach a deal on the federal budget.
Smyrna, is one of about 100 regional airports, that would lose its air traffic control tower as a result. Executive Director John Black said he's concerned the cuts would have a big impact.
"Safety is our number one thing," said Black. "We have a wide mix of aircraft that use this airport. We want to keep them safe. The tower adds to that safety level."
The tower's six controllers would be placed on furlough until further notice.
Black said flights will still be able to use the airport with no tower, but pilots would have to rely on help from other air traffic controllers. The airport has about 300 flight operations each day, and pilots say it is too busy to function without a control tower.
"Not having a tower would be a huge drawback," said flight instructor Chris Findley. "We could lose traffic, business, and it would have a negative impact."
The cutbacks are part of an FAA plan to trim about $600 million from its 2013 budget. Officials said in addition to cuts at smaller airports, there could be lengthy delays on flights in major cities, and airlines could even reduce the number of flights offered.
President Obama is asking Congress to come up with a short term deal to delay the cuts before the deadline. If they don't, the Smyrna tower would close by April 1.