FAA Study Estimates Kansas Municipal Airport Tower Costs

An air traffic control tower at Lee's Summit's municipal airport could cost the city about $105,000 a year to operate while reducing the number of flights overhead, a study says.

The city had asked the Federal Aviation Administration to do a benefit/cost study on building a control tower. The report, presented Thursday to the City Council, is based on federal criteria such as traffic counts and types of aircraft.

Lee's Summit would be responsible for 30 percent of the annual operating costs, said Chuck Owsley, Lee's Summit Public Works director, although city officials hoped the FAA would cover the entire annual expense of $350,000.

Owsley said that the agency used an older traffic count from the airport in the study. The city could ask the Mid-America Regional Council to make an updated count of landings, which could drop Lee's Summit's share of the cost, he said.

The council voted to have the city staff continue working on the proposal. Joe Spallo was the lone dissenter.

Owsley said the tower would create new airspace rules for a radius of 4.6 miles around the airport, covering most of Lee's Summit.

Landings would be controlled by two-way radio communication, so pilots would make a straight approach to runways. "With a tower, they would not have to make a flyover at the airport before they could land," Owsley said.

In the airspace, under a formal noise-abatement program, turbine-powered or large aircraft assigned to a "noise-abatement runway" must use that landing strip. Or, if there is only a voluntary noise program, having a control tower makes it more likely pilots would comply. Turbine aircraft would be required to reach an altitude of 1,500 feet quickly.

Also, in an airport with controlled airspace, the number of "touch and go" flights by student pilots is reduced because trainers prefer facilities where they don't stay in constant communication with the tower.

With a tower, Owsley said, the city perhaps could have prevented a fatal accident in which the weather suddenly changed.

That pilot wasn't qualified to fly in the weather conditions, Owsley said, and traffic controllers can regulate flights based on the pilots' license qualifications and inform them of wind and weather conditions.