March 26, 2023 2:48 pm

Pilots who frequent a Northern Virginia airport say a federal choice to ground a distinctive air site visitors handle technique the airport utilizes will place security at danger.

When a plane requires off and lands at Leesburg Executive Airport, it is guided by some thing named a remote air site visitors handle tower. Devices atop the terminal collect information that is transmitted to air site visitors controllers inside a nearby workplace park.

“The controllers are hunting at a video wall of a 360 degree view of the airport from a place off-airport,” mentioned Scott Coffman, the airport’s manager.

The airport is one particular of only two in the nation exactly where a private organization has been testing a remote tower handle technique. The testing began in 2018 it really is received rave critiques from pilots.

But final week, the FAA stunned the airport neighborhood and public officials when it announced it would finish the remote tower plan in mid-June.

“We have been shocked to discover this out,” Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk mentioned. “This has been a pretty effective plan, and we brag about it wherever we go.”

Gabe Muller has been flying out of the airport given that 2011, and leads a pilots club. He mentioned remote air site visitors handle, or ATC, is invaluable, specially with 5 flight schools in the region.

“To me, it is such a comforting feeling to know I have group that is assisting me navigate in and out of right here, but also assisting everyone else about me as properly,” Muller mentioned.

The arrival of the remote tower also spurred development. Airport operations have been soaring, with take-offs and landings for the duration of the hours the remote tower is in operation expanding from about 53,000 in 2018 to practically 78,000 final year.

“To go from a accomplishment story to, ‘We’re going to turn it off now,’ is, is a massive modify for the airport,” Coffman mentioned.

In a statement, the FAA mentioned the shutdown is coming for the reason that the private organization in charge of the remote tower technologies decided not to continue to seek complete approval.

“The remote tower in Leesburg is aspect of a test plan. The FAA can’t enable the use of an unapproved technique in the National Airspace Program. It creates a security danger,” the statement study in aspect.

But Coffman and pilots say that possessing no tower at all in this complex airspace is a larger situation.

“My purpose right here, my mission and my statement is that if we drop our tower we are going to be placing security at danger,” Muller mentioned.

Elected leaders and pilots have joined forces to ask the FAA to reconsider, or to at-minimum retain the remote tower going till the finish of 2023 so they can discover other alternatives.

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