Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Frederick Municipal Airport tower nears opening: Officials expect improved air traffic safety

The Frederick Municipal Airport’s new radio control tower will make air travel safer for the 160,657 aircrafts that take off and land each year, according to the airport’s manager Kevin Daugherty.

“We’re excited about it,” he said. “It’s a game changer.”

The $5.3-million tower, which has been in the works for about a decade, was paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Daugherty said construction is complete, with just touch-ups — such as fixing chipped paint — needed before the FAA can approve the site. He said the tower is expected to be operational by June 1.Tower-controlled airports function by having controllers issue departure and arrival instructions for pilots, according to the FAA. Without a tower, pilots using the airport are responsible for talking directly to one another.

The tower will be staffed by between six and eight new permanent full-time positions, all of which will be paid by the FAA, Daugherty said.

The airport already is getting tower designation on national airport maps, which lets pilots know the airpsace will no longer be uncontrolled, he said.

The city broke ground on the tower in October 2010. Daugherty said the airport has two flight schools and operates as a location for business and personal flights.

About 200 aircraft are based at Frederick Municipal Airport, a reliever airport for Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, meaning it directs smaller flights away from the larger airport to alleviate traffic.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Frederick Mayor Randy McClement (R) toured the tower Tuesday and said it could lead to economic growth.

Cardin, who helped secure federal funding for the tower, said he was pleased the project is almost complete.

“I remember talking to people in this area, saying ‘We need a new tower,’” he said. “Then this opportunity presented itself to fund this with the recovery act. Now, to be standing in the tower? It’s amazing. It’s a real economic opportunity for the region.”

McClement said the new tower allows for safer travel and could increase the number of flights at the airport, which could in turn mean more fuel sales.

“This is great,” he said. “The ability to see where our future lies, to see where the runway can expand. … There are people who won’t come into uncontrolled airports. I’d hope companies might be able, if they have that concern, to be alleviated.”

Frederick's Board of Aldermen accepted federal stimulus grant money to construct the tower in September 2010.


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