The FAA announced today that 149 federal contract towers will close beginning April 7 as part of the agency’s plan to trim its budget by $637 million in Fiscal Year 2013 under sequestration. Two weeks ago, the FAA released a list of 238 towers potentially facing closure.
On Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood laid out the likely consequences to his department and the FAA of possible automatic federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, that are scheduled to start March 1. In the absence of a revised budget deal between the Obama Administration and Congress, he said the FAA is planning $600 million in cuts through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends September 30.
Air traffic service academy Entry Point North is offering on-site training in a specially equipped mobile simulation trailer. During September and October, up to 30 tower controllers from Aviation Capacity Resources, a private Swedish air navigation service provider, received emergency training provided in the mobile simulator that was put into operation next to their tower units at Stockholm Västerås and Växjö.
The Thales-supplied tower ATC system chosen for the upcoming data communications trial at Memphis International Airport will, when active, become the first such product from the French aerospace and defense group ever to operate in the U.S. The automation system and controller display interface, used for managing aircraft on the airport surface, forms part of an integrated air traffic management system widely used outside the U.S. called TopSky.
Saab Sensis and LFV, Sweden’s air navigation services provider (ANSP), are working toward certification of a “remote tower” (r-TWR) concept next year meant to allow air traffic controllers to manage aircraft operations at small and regional airports from a distance using cameras and other sensors. Authorities in Australia and Norway have begun testing the technology as well.
Across the U.S., in all but four states, there are no fewer than 250 airport towers operated by non-FAA controllers employed by three private FAA contractors. The towers provide ATC services to a wide range of users, including general aviation, passenger and cargo airlines and the military.
The NTSB’s initial report of the July 31 loss of standard ATC separation between three regional airliners operating near Washington’s Reagan Airport (DCA) said the aircraft were not as close as some people at first believed. The Board cited poor ATC coordination as the reason for the incident. The NTSB said the Potomac Tracon supervisor called the supervisor at DCA tower at 2.00 p.m.
The concept isn’t new. In fact, one could call it a logical extension of development work that originated with Saab in Sweden in the mid-2000s, which showed the economic potential of datalinking various sensors at an unmanned airport to controllers at a distant air traffic monitoring and control center. Such a center could handle a number of small airports that had relatively few arrivals and departures but that still needed personnel to maintain a monitoring watch.
A sizable portion of the FAA’s successful contract-tower program could face $128 million in cuts by January 2013, a casualty of the Congressional Super Committee’s failure to reach any practical bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction, according to Spencer Dickerson, executive director of the American Association of Airport Executives’ Contract Tower Association.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held last month for a new control tower for Ohio’s Port Columbus International Airport, home of Executive Jet’s operational headquarters and customer service center. The FAA said the tower is the first of its type in the nation. Unique features include a 16-sided cab that provides a viewing area interrupted by only three structural columns, allowing a 120-deg span of clear vision between the columns.