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Manhattan airport tower open through September

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- Manhattan's air traffic control tower will stay open at least through September despite uncertainty in how the city will pay for it, Mayor Loren Pepperd said.

The city commission decided Tuesday to postpone a decision on how to find money to keep the tower open until September, The Manhattan Mercury reported (http://bit.ly/YCsGSg ).

The control tower at Manhattan Regional Airport is one of five in Kansas scheduled to close because of federal budget cuts. The others are in Hutchinson, Topeka and two airports in Olathe.

The closures will not force the shutdown of any of those airports, but pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency with no help from ground controllers. All pilots are trained to fly using those procedures.

The Federal Aviation Administration is being forced to trim $637 million for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The agency said it had no choice but to subject most of its 47,000 employees, including tower controllers, to periodic furloughs and close air traffic facilities at small airports with lighter traffic. The changes are part of across-the-board federal spending cuts that went into effect March 1.

The plan has raised concerns over safety and potential financial effects on communities where airports help drive the local economy.

Commissioners are expected to discuss future funding of the tower at their meeting next week.