The News and Advance
Lynchburg Airport Drafts Plea to FAA to Keep Control Tower
March 14, 2013
  • Share
  • Letter from Lynchburg Regional Airport Manager Mark Courtney to the FAA. Lynchburg’s airport manager makes a case to the FAA for why the airport should be able to keep its tower running.   Lynchburg airport drafts plea to FAA to keep control tower Eleanor Kennedy   Lynchburg Regional Airport has made its case to the Federal Aviation Administration to keep its control tower open.   In a three-page letter to David J. Grizzle, the FAA’s chief operating officer for the Air Traffic Organization, Lynchburg Airport Director Mark Courtney argues the airport meets the “national interest” standard to avoid closure because of its role in nuclear operations; flight training for the military, the Federal Executive Airlift Group and the Defense Intelligence Agency; and economic impact beyond the surrounding localities.   The Lynchburg tower is one of more than 170 that could be shuttered by the Federal Aviation Administration to make up for $600 million in sequestration cuts.   In the letter, Courtney says closure of the Lynchburg tower would adversely affect the training efforts of three different pilot groups vital to both military and government transportation.   The airport has “for years” served as training ground for military operations — up 34 percent in 2012, according to the letter — because of its west-central location and proximity to rural and mountainous terrain.   The federal airlift group responsible for global air transportation for the president, vice president, cabinet members and other senior military and elected leaders trains at the airport. So do pilots from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which provides transportation services to U.S. Embassy officials, high ranking U.S. government officials, cabinet secretaries, members of Congress and host country officials, the letter says.   The letter quotes the Chief of the Air Operations Division of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who says the closure of Lynchburg’s tower likely would force the division to find “less optimal” training locations for its pilots.   As a service provider to two major nuclear companies, the letter says, Lynchburg Regional Airport and the added oversight of its tower contribute to operations including “nuclear fuels servicing, maintenance, military support, and nuclear research and development sectors.”   According to the letter, although these services do not relate directly to defense or homeland security, “the very nature of the business of these industries clearly has national security implications and/or would represent an adverse economic impact that will be beyond the impact on the local community.”   Finally, Courtney writes the increased workload on Roanoke’s air traffic control tower, also likely to have fewer employees because of funding cuts, will cause delays for the entire region and “result in an adverse economic impact that is beyond the impact on the local community.”   He suggests the loss of a control tower at the Lynchburg airport will “at the very least,” hamper the airport’s efforts to lure a second airline to replace Delta Air Lines, or, in the long-term, cause the loss of existing US Airways service.   The FAA has said it will make its final decision on what towers to close March 18.