Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tower Technology Gets Federal Aviation Administration Test At Leesburg Executive Airport (KJYO), Virginia

The Leesburg Airport is teaming up with SAAB Sensis Corporation to test a new remote air-traffic control system that could result in approval for a permanent FAA air traffic control tower at the town’s airport.

The Town Council last week approved an agreement allowing the company and the research arm of the Virginia Department of Aviation to test SAAB’s new system at the airport while it seeks FAA safety certification for the new technology. The project is expected to take place starting in June 2015.

For the past year, the town’s Airport Commission has supported the development of an air traffic control tower to better handle increasing flight activity. Leesburg Airport is the second-busiest general aviation airport in Virginia with more than 100,000 takeoffs and landings annually. However, considering it took eight years for a tower to be built at Frederick Airport (MD), Leesburg Airport leaders wanted to find a quicker route.

SAAB’s new product is part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next-Gen campaign to improve flight control nationwide. The remote air traffic control tower system has been certified for use in Europe and tested in Australia but not in the United States. Leesburg will provide that testing ground.

“To get a control tower established is pretty tough, especially with federal sequestration—that makes funding hard,” Airport Manager Scott Coffman said. “So the state put us in touch with SAAB—they were looking for a place to test and get certification of their remote control product in the U.S. They selected Leesburg as a site and will have the FAA people come do their safety and risk analysis of the system to make sure that it’s a safe product that can be used in the United States.”

The decision to test at Leesburg Airport also made sense from SAAB’s standpoint.

“It’s a busy general aviation airport and it doesn’t currently have a air traffic control tower, but it does have a really good mix of different aircraft types flying in and out," SAAB media relations manager Rob Conrad explained. “They have a flight-training operation and it’s in a complex airspace near Dulles, so it’s a good test situation for the project.”

The only cost to the town during the three-month testing period will be two phone lines and electrical power estimated at $2,000. Coffman believes that fee is small considering how much money the town would save using SAAB’s product rather than constructing a traditional traffic tower.

“For us, it’s an interesting product,” Coffman said. “Number one, it’s less expensive than a brick and mortar control tower because this is essentially a camera array that’s on an existing building or tower that looks at the airspace around our airport.

“It’s much simpler to build a camera array, and the remote part of the tower means that the air traffic controller is in a remote location. They don’t have to be looking out a window. Their product is designed so they could be essentially anywhere. It’s kind of cool.”

Coffman thinks that having a permanent air traffic tower would help attract business jet operators as well as improve flight safety and offer more efficient communication to pilots.

Even with increasing air traffic, Leesburg residents shouldn’t be worried about the changes, he said.

“As far as the residents of Leesburg, they’re not going to hear any additional noise or anything like that. In fact, a control tower could help with keeping pilots on certain paths as they come into the airport,” Coffman said.

- Source:   http://www.leesburgtoday.com

No comments:

Post a Comment