Airport Business

AUG-SEP 2018

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August/September 2018 airportbusiness 41 AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL Increased safety, lower costs In the United States, a number of aerodromes are uncontrolled and operated as so-called “non-towered” airports while still receiving airline services. Across the country services vary from towered at major airports to non-towered at smaller, regional ones with typically lower traffic volume. Of the small airports that have tower control, these will be served by federal contract towers, approved by the FAA, and then operated by private companies. The FAA will only approve contract towers if the benefit exceeds the costs. According to Reason.org, 189 operational contract towers risked being shut down in 2013, however Congress approved emergency funds from the FAA’s airport grants program, allowing them to continue operation. The 2017 article noted that there were 16 small airports still on the waiting list for control towers. The truth is that a lot of smaller and regional airports worldwide are frequently failing to achieve profits and sometimes even operating at a loss. This is driven by a mix of increasing requirements and higher costs for staffing and technical equipment. Increasing competition from other airports or other modes of transport, such as trains, put these locations at risk for closure if the cost of operations cannot be justified. Tightened state budgets in the United States mean that the majority of publicly owned airports are managed by arms-length organizations that need to break even. Here is where the argument for remote tower really shows the benefit outweighing the cost. Instead of the cost involved in constructing and maintaining a tall, concrete, control tower at the airport to house equipment and controllers; with the remote tower concept a number of high definition, infrared cameras and communication technology just need to be mounted on masts at the airport and communicate to controllers in a remote tower control facility that offers a panoramic display of the airfield. Additionally, the idea that a number of airports can be served and consolidated into one remote tower center also offers additional cost benefits. There will still be one controller available for one airport, but the concept increases the flexibility of staffing and will help to make operations more efficient. In air route traffic control centers, sectors are opened and closed in line with traffic demand and weather forecasts. We expect a similar concept of operations (CONOPS) to be implemented in the future for remote tower centers. Tried and tested Remote tower tests and validations around the world, have already shown the increased safety benefit of a remote tower center, providing improved surveillance at night and in adverse weather such as rain, fog or snow, thanks to advanced infrared camera equipment, object detection and tracking features. Recent FAA testing at Virginia’s Leesburg Executive Airport, to evaluate the safety and practicality of the remote tower concept, noted particularly that the cost of implementing a remote tower Frequentis The concept of carrying out air traffic control services from any location using a multitude of local sensors, visual and infrared cameras and surveillance solutions creates an opportunity to change the way air traffic is monitored and managed.

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