Wednesday, May 25, 2022

New study for Venice Municipal Airport (KVNC) master plan to weigh merits adding a control tower

VENICE, Florida – With an eye toward determining whether an air traffic control tower is needed because of increasing traffic at the Venice Municipal Airport, the Venice City Council is launching an update of the airport's master plan.

Such an update would include an assessment of whether a control tower is warranted. 

The decision came following a presentation Tuesday by Dave Wimberly and Paul Hollowell of Venice Aviation Society, Inc., which included discussion of the airport's increased use.

“What was once a nice small-town airport has been discovered,” said Wimberly, the VASI president.

Hollowell, the VASI treasurer, pointed out that there are about 90,000 takeoffs or landings – logged collectively as “operations” – every year at the airport, as tracked by Vector airport systems cameras.

Hollowell noted that an air traffic control tower directs flow around the airport in the same way that either a roundabout or traffic signals control vehicular traffic on roads.

Both speakers stressed that the airport is currently safe.

“As far as the airport now, the pilots are on their game,” Hollowell said “When you enter the pattern you are on your game to maintain the perspective, the situational awareness.”

The current master plan was developed in 2008 and approved in 2011.

VASI made a request in March 2008 for the city to apply to the FAA for a tower under its contract tower program, in anticipation of aviation growth.

That council did not act on the request.

Venice Airport Director Mark Cervasio noted that the airport had slotted a request for funding to conduct a new master plan in the 2025 fiscal year, so the council is asking for funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, which would cover up to 90% of the plan's cost.

The findings would then be used by the FAA to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of building a control tower.

The city could have also hired a consultant at anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 to collect the data the FAA would use as the basis for its analysis but the master plan rewrite offers a more comprehensive solution.

If the FAA decides a tower is warranted, it could build and operate it, but a more likely scenario – such as at Punta Gorda Airport – would have it established as a contract tower that would be built by the city and paid for out of the airport enterprise fund.

It would then be staffed by FAA-certified contractors.

A third operation would be e remote tower, where an off-site contractor directs air traffic remotely and monitors it through a series of cameras and infrared sensors.

That option is primarily being used in Europe but is currently in operation as pilot projects at airports in Loveland, Colorado, and Leesburg, Virginia.

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