Dayton Could Lose Air Traffic Control Tower to Columbus

DAYTON -- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is studying the possibility of consolidating its radar center at Dayton International Airport with one at Port Columbus.

A Dayton member of the air traffic controllers' union estimated the change would remove about two-thirds of the 52-person staff from the Dayton control center. It also would mean the loss of another federal aviation facility from Dayton's municipal airport.

The FAA's Dayton Flight Service Station is already on a list of facilities to be closed in a privatization and consolidation move. The airport would still have radar service, but the controllers would be in Columbus.

Local pilots eventually could lose the benefit of controllers familiar with the territory, said Sam Tomlin, a member of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and a Dayton controller who lives in Oakwood.

Unclear is how seriously the FAA is studying the question and how close it is to a decision. An FAA spokesman this week said the agency reviews the idea every few years.

"Is it something active? Yes. Is it out of the ordinary? No," said Tony Molinaro, spokesman for the FAA's Great Lakes regional office in Chicago. Tomlin said the idea seems to be receiving closer scrutiny as the FAA works on plans for a new Dayton control center.

"This (review) seems to have legs," he said Thursday.

The FAA has been planning a new Dayton control center for years. Dayton broke ground for a new center in July 2003 as part of its centennial of flight celebration. It was to include a freestanding control tower with an attached building housing the TRACON and administrative offices. Nearly three years later, the new center is yet to be built. Assistant City Manager Stanley Earley said the FAA has changed its plans for the center, including how to finance it, several times.

But the radar facility has been dropped from the project. "We'll build the new facility with just the tower and keep the TRACON where it is," Molinaro said.

The decision was based on cost, Molinaro said, but he agreed it leaves open the option of moving the operation to Columbus.

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