Section 3 – Operations
What happens after a tower closure? Thousands of airports operate safely throughout the United States with and without control towers today. This section explains what an airport operator needs to do differently, as well as any potential effects on air carrier operations. Questions regarding the potential use of airport grant funding should be handled through existing FAA processes. Any towered airport has a variety of items to consider when their tower closes.
• Frequencies – Closure of the tower does not inhibit the availability of a common traffic
frequency which is used by pilots to operate at non-towered airports. The FAA will work with airports to ensure a common traffic frequency is available, along with any other
communications capabilities that may be necessary (e.g., ASOS, ATIS, ETC.)
• Pilot-Activated Lights – In many instances, airports already have pilot-controlled lighting
available since the vast majority of contract control towers close overnight. In the event the capability is not present, then alternative procedures may be used (e.g., leave lights on). Airports can work with their Airport District Offices to explore federal funding possibilities, through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), for pilot controlled lighting capabilities.
• Weather Observation – Airports have many different types of weather reporting capabilities available to them. Airports may choose to acquire Contract Weather Observers or use Automated weather reporting systems (ASOS, AWOS, etc.) if they are available. The availability of weather information is a critical requirement for air carrier operations to arrive/depart at the airport. The FAA will work with airports, through reimbursable agreements, to ensure the desired level of weather reporting capabilities is available.
a. If a federally owned automated weather observation system (ASOS, AWSS or AWOS-C)
is located on the airport and the ATCT would like to augment the automated weather
reports, a non-Federal Weather Observing Agreement must be executed in accordance
with JO 7900.5C, Appendix B.
• Diversions – Non-towered airports may be a diversion location for aircraft unable to land at their primary destination. Air carriers and private operators alike must abide by requirements to operate at these locations. Many air carriers operate at non-towered airports today and use non-towered airports as diversion airports.
• Modifications to Standards – Some airports may have approved Modifications to Standards that use an operating control tower as mitigation. Airports with these conditions are being identified by the FAA on a case-by-case basis for the potential effects on the Modification to Standard
• Notifying Tenants – Airports should notify airport tenants of the tower closure and assess what, if any, effect closing the tower has on the tenants’ operations.
• Airports must ensure that airfield controls currently located in the tower continue to be
accessible or are relocated to ensure continued operations. Coordination should occur with the FAA and the current tower personnel to ensure any changes are made by the announced closure date, or later if agreed to by all parties.
• Airports must identify to the FAA who will control the airport diagram.
• As these contract towers cease operations, they will transfer the appropriate monitoring and control responsibilities to the AOCC Maintenance Control Center. In addition, airports certificated under “Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 139 – Certification of Airports” have several requirements they must continue to meet when a tower closes.
• Overall – Any activity at an airportthatrelies on a tower to execute in the airport’s Airport
Certification Manual must be reviewed to see what, if anything needs to be changed. The
airport operator must submit for approval any changes to the Airport Certification Manual to the local FAA Regional Airports Office for approval. Examples may include:
o Airport Emergency Plans and how the tower notifies Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting
o How the airport operator will control access to the movement area.
o How the airport will issue NOTAM’s.
• Driver Training for the Movement Area – Any airport with a tower that decreases operating hours to less than 24 hours a day must include in its driver training plan procedures to move on the airport while the tower is closed. Part 139 airports with towers operating less than 24 hours a day already have these procedures in their training plans and Airport Certification Manuals. These procedures become the main area of driver training when the tower closes completely. Modified training plans and revised Airport Certification Manuals must be submitted to your local FAA Regional Airports Office for approval before the new procedures are implemented.
• Airport Emergency Plan – Most Airport Emergency Plans at airports with operating control
towers include procedures that the tower is responsible for in emergencies. For example, a
tower may notify the airport operator and the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) personnel when an emergency occurs. Any procedural changes must be reflected in the Airport Emergency Plan and submitted to your local FAA Regional or Airports District Office for approval.
• Segmented Circles – An airport must include a segmented circle, a landing strip indicator, and traffic pattern indicator around a wind cone if:
o There is no tower operating during air carrier operations; AND
o Any runway on the airport has a right-turn traffic pattern. If both of those conditions are true, then the airport must install these items around a wind cone for each runway with a right-turn traffic pattern.
• FAA/ATO Terminal District managers will work with airports as needed to ensure any operating agreements are in place as required to continue airport operations. These managers will also work with airportsto provide Certified Tower Operator certification in the event the airport wishes to provide non-federal tower services
o Airports must ensure the appropriate NOTAMs are issued in advance of the actual closure date, Notices to Airmen must be issued if the Air Traffic Control Tower is to be closed or there will be any change in the current operating hours or airspace changes. Airports should contact the appropriate Flight Service Station to issue the necessary NOTAMs.
? The FAA recommends that the Air Traffic Manager or Airport Manager issue a “Letter to Airmen” to inform airport users of any airspace or ATCT operating hour changes.
? The Airport Manager should contact the appropriate FAA Airports District Office to advise them of the ATCT operating changes.
? The Airport Manager should contact the local FAA Flight Standards District Office to notify them of any ATCT operating changes.
• The Airport Manager should contact the FAA Service Center Operations Support Group (OSG) Manager to ensure any necessary changes to Instrument Approach procedures are revised and/or updated. Contact information is provided in the FAQ’s available on the FAA website.
• Air Traffic Publications and Aeronautical Charts must be updated to reflect the changes. The FAA Service Area Point of Contact and Operations Support Group (OSG) should also provide assistance.
• Airports should contact their Airports District Office, or their Airport Certification Inspector to ensure the Airport Master Record, (FAA Form 5010) is current.
The associations have asked Congress for $136.1 million for the fully funded contract towers as well as $10.35 million authorized for the continuation of the Contact Tower Cost-sharing Program.
As part of the agency’s sequestration implementation plan, the FAA will begin a four-week phased closure of the 149 federal contract towers beginning on April 7.
A safety risk assessment (SRA) has identified potential high, medium and low risk hazards for aircraft using W.K. Kellogg Airport (BTL) if the airport’s control tower had been closed by the...
It will delay the closures of all 149 federal contract air traffic control towers until June 15.