FAA to fund traffic control staff; grant request tabled - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

FAA to fund traffic control staff; grant request tabled

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TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Because the Federal Aviation Administration has announced that it will continue to fund air traffic control tower staff in smaller cities through Sept. 30 so that the towers can remain open, the Tyler Airport Advisory Board has tabled a request to the Texas Department of Transportation for a grant to cover that personnel cost.

"It's not needed at this time," Tyler Pounds Regional Airport Manager Davis Dickson said after board members voted to table the issue on Monday at their meeting.

Dickson said he did not know yet if TxDOT would still offer to fund the Tyler Pounds control tower and other small towers in Texas that were slated to close earlier this year because of federal budget cuts after Sept. 30. The FAA had announced in March that it would pull the funding to air traffic control towers at some smaller airports because of sequestration.

Dickson said at the time that the Tyler Pounds control tower was set for closure May 5 unless the city could find other ways to finance the cost. There are six contract air traffic controllers at Tyler Pounds in five positions. Dickson estimated in March that the cost of the annual FAA is $500,000. The city of Tyler does not have access to or hold the contract for those cities, he said in March. "The FAA holds the contract," Dickson said.

Other airports in Texas that were set for closure but will receive the funding are: New Braunfels, Brownsville, College Station, Waco, Lone Star Executive Houston, Georgetown, San Marcos, Dallas Executive, Sugar Land Regional, Stinson Municipal in San Antonio, Collin County Regional and Victoria Regional.

"Having a control tower is extremely important to Tyler," Dickson said in March. "The tower handles a large volume of commercial passengers and private aircraft and is a key component for efficient and safe operations."In a March report to the FAA where he made the case for continued air traffic control tower funding, Dickson said Tyler Pounds is the largest airport in the East Texas region and is responsible for processing between 150,000 to 200,000 commercial passengers each year.The airport serves as a diversionary stop for airline traffic when there is bad weather in Houston or Dallas, and air ambulances for Mother Frances Hospital and East Texas Regional Medical Center use Tyler Pounds when transporting patients, the report from Dickson stated. A portion of the helicopter fleet from both hospitals is housed at the airport, the report stated.The report also stated that the "capital expenditures from 2006 to 2010 (at the airport) generated $22.5 million in economic activity that created 209 job years of economic activity." A job year equals one job lasting one year, the report stated.In other news, passengers may get a clearer and more accurate picture of flight arrivals and departures at Tyler Pounds on larger terminal screens after the Advisory Board voted to recommend a contract with Boston-based FlightView. If council approves, the city will spend almost $65,000 for the software, which automatically updates all flight delays, departures and arrivals and will have a mobile application so that passengers may use it on a cell phone. All of the hardware, such as the 40-inch flat screens to be used in the airport terminal will be purchased locally, Dickson said. "Up until now, airline personnel had to go in and manually provide flight updates when they had time," Dickson said. He called the new FlightView system an excellent service for the passengers.

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