SARA aims for new control tower

Published 1:27 am Wednesday, June 28, 2017

South Alabama Regional Airport is working with Fort Rucker officials to get an air traffic control tower after nearly five years without one.

SARA Executive Director Jed Blackwell said that earlier this month, the Army’s highly trained Airfield Operations Battalion spent two weeks at SARA doing a training exercise.

During that time the airport averaged 106 operations per day.

“We are talking to the commander and colonel and are trying to get the air traffic control tower back,” he said.

SARA chairman Gary Smith asked if there was enough traffic to constitute the tower.

Board member Donald Barton said that the air traffic control tower would help “coordinate the dance” of planes and helicopters coming in and out of the airport. “The tower would make it a lot smoother,” he said.

John Roberts, a resident who attends most of the meetings, said he didn’t want to see the airport invest $2 million in a tower.

Blackwell said that it would be a portable style tower.

It would take the airspace from being a Class G to a Class D.

“We could pick up additional air traffic,” Barton said.

Blackwell said having the Class D designation would allow some of the military’s T-6 aircraft to utilize the airport.

Star-News archives show that an unlucky lightning strike in 2011, paired with federal budget cuts, made the military decide to stop providing air traffic control services locally.

The air traffic control tower and ground-control approach radar, which was due to be upgraded in 2012, was hit by lightning in September 2011.