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Aviation cuts mean uncertain future for Okla. air traffic controllers

OKLAHOMA CITY – Job cuts are soon coming to the aviation industry all across the country, including four airports in Oklahoma.

The Federal Aviation Administration is shutting down air traffic control towers around the nation.

Now some controllers are trying to figure out where to go from here.

Matt Lau has been an air traffic controller for 17 years.

He’s worked at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City for the last five years.

“I love the job; I love coming to work every day,” Lau said.

Soon the job he loves so much will be taken away.

Wiley Post is one of 149 airports around the country that will become “uncontrolled” when the FAA shuts down the air traffic control tower.

“Everything`s happened so fast, there really hasn`t been any time to plan,” Lau said. “The first inkling I heard of this was maybe a month ago.”

Lau is just one of many controllers who are reeling from the news that they’ll soon be out of a job.

Gary Clardy has been an air traffic controller for 30 years and has spent 15 years at Wiley Post.

“You get to a certain point in your life and you think something like this would happen,” Clardy said.

Some said taking away the air traffic controllers from the towers is like taking away a traffic light from a busy intersection, it`s just an accident waiting to happen.

“It can get out of hand really quick,” Clardy said. “And I don`t think the folks in Washington realize this.”

“We do count on air traffic control to help keep safety in the air,” Karen Carney, with Will Rogers Airport, said.

The cuts are scheduled to start in April.

Only time will tell how they will affect the safety of the skies.

“Right now as an airport, we have as many questions as we do answers.” Carney said.

Those with a passion for the air are now left trying to plan for an uncertain future.

“This obviously is my first choice of a career.” Lau said. “But if I had to, I would look elsewhere in the aviation field.”

“It`s just kind of a tricky situation right now – for us all.”¬†Clardy said.

The other three towers in Oklahoma set to close are the Lawton-Fort Sill tower, the OU Westheimer tower in Norman, and the tower at Stillwater Regional Airport.