What’s an airport without a control tower? One that can expect to see a lot less traffic. As part of the sequestration cuts to the federal budget, the FAA has given the city of Concord official notice that it will end the contract that funds the tower program at Concord Regional Airport.
Starting April 1, the airport’s tower program will no longer receive funding from the FAA. So that means its seven air traffic controllers will lose their jobs. The airport will remain open with or without a tower, but Aviation Director Rick Cloutier says it loses a level of safety.
“Well, an airport with a tower, all the movements either in the air or even on the ground and around the airport, an air traffic controller is on radar by visual, spacing, separation, all those types of things,” Mr. Cloutier says. “Where in an airport without a tower basically the pilots talk to each other and announce where they’re at, announce certain positions and kind of watch out for each other.”
Mr. Cloutier says the airport will also lose a lot of business. He says that’s because many insurance companies for corporate jets require they only use tower-controlled airports.
Many NASCAR teams and sponsors rely on the airport. He expects many will have to go somewhere else.
“It has a huge economic impact to the city but it also could have an economic impact to other areas of the country also especially utilizing our NASCAR operations,” Mr. Cloutier says.
For example, he says, there are 400 NASCAR related charter flights a year on Boeing 737s that use the airport. He says all of that business will definitely be gone.
Concord City Manager Brian Hiatt says the city will appeal the decision and is looking for temporary local funding to keep the tower running. He’s still trying to figure out how much money that would require.
Concord Regional Airport web page, on ConcordNC.gov
March 7, 2013, Triangle Business Journal, “Air traffic control towers to close at five N.C. airports”
CITY OF CONCORD ANNOUNCEMENT
Here’s the announcement from the City of Concord Wednesday afternoon:
Date: March 6, 2013
Concord Regional Airport Control Tower Funding
CONCORD – Yesterday, the City of Concord received official notification from the Federal Aviation Administration that the contract tower program at Concord Regional Airport would be discontinued in the near future. This information does not come as a surprise but is still unsettling in its potential impact. The economic impact to our community could be significant. In 2012, Concord Regional had a total of 59,811 operations (landings and take offs) with 3959 of those being commercial operations. The most recent statistics from 2011 show those commercial flights had 10,961 enplanements (passengers boarding). Concord Regional is part of the 10th busiest airspace in the county.
Economic impact could be realized by the high probability of losing all 737 charter flights, almost all of which involve NASCAR race teams. In addition some tenants, including major race teams, have operating restrictions that only allow them to use tower controlled airports. Some customers may choose to take their business elsewhere because of the decrease in customer service provided by a tower. Many businesses have indicated they located in our community due to our Airport, part of which is the air traffic control tower service. Safety is always the number one priority but an airport without a tower has an obviously different safety environment as one with a tower.
Our airport will remain open with or without a tower. Currently, options are being considered to keep our tower open on a short term basis without FAA support with long range alternatives being considered.
As a City, we are reaching out to our customers and local partners for support in our conversations with Federal elected officials. It is our belief the proposed action to end our contract tower program will have a broad impact on jobs and our local economy if customers are lost.