Don Wilkins Messenger-Inquirer
VirTower to track overnight flight data
June 24, 2023
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  • The Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport will be installing technology that’s aimed at tracking flight data during overnight hours.

    The airport board will utilize a reimbursable $6,000 grant to test a VirTower — a system that acts as a virtual flight tracker and records all airplane and helicopter movements within the airport.

    Tristan Durbin, airport director, said the grant is through a partnership between the Kentucky Department of Aviation and VirTower, a Fort Myers, Florida-based company, and that it will be for a one-year trial basis.

    “There is not a control tower that … talks to aircraft; it’s more of a tracking mechanism to track operations,” Durbin said.

    Currently, the airport’s control tower is manned from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The airport’s protected air space is a 5 mile-radius and 3,000 feet in the air.

    Although the airport is open 24 hours to planes and helicopters, there is no monitoring of flight activity during the eight overnight hours the control tower is unmanned.

    “So there is a portion that we are missing out on — calculating operations, being able to track those operations,” Durbin said. “There are various tools within this VirTower program that we think will be very beneficial to the airport.”

    When it’s installed, the VirTower will track realtime flight operations such as takeoffs, landings, touch and gos, pavement utilization and based aircraft operations of both planes and helicopters.

    The system records all airside pavement utilization by aircraft, including accurate time stamps for all movements. The system will also record all based aircraft at the airport and number of days flown per year.

    Durbin said the VirTower will also be active during the daytime hours, but it won’t be there to replace the main manned tower.

    Durbin added that it will provide useful data to present to the Federal Aviation Administration when it comes to needed funding.

    “…Having this program installed would be for that (FAA) justification because it tracks operations — not only as a whole, but which runway they use, which taxiways they use, how long they stay,” Durbin said.

    Doug Hoyt, airport board chairman, said tracking the overnight flight is the main purpose behind the need for the VirTower, but it is not limited to that purpose.

    “So at minimum, it gives us better data between the eight-hour time slot the tower is not open,” Hoyt said, “and it could have greater benefit than that.”