Vance Brand Airport doesn’t need an air traffic control tower

Speech made to the Longmont City Council January 20, 2004 by Chris Rodriguez

Mayor Pirnack & members of Council
At a recent Airport Advisory Board meeting and in today’s Times-Call there’s talk of an airport control tower study at Vance Brand Airport. I am an air traffic controller with the FAA, but I am speaking on behalf of myself only.

Let’s look at this idea for what it really is: Government fraud, waste, and abuse. How? Taking federal funds and wasting them on projects that that will never see the light of day. I’m told the FAA has granted the airport $150,000 a year for the next four years. Money that can be well spent improving what’s already there. I’m not talking about adding anything new that will add traffic, just maintenance issues, like runway lights, taxiway improvements, etc. But someone wants to take a large chunk of that money, between $75,000 and $125,000 for an air traffic control tower STUDY. Not for the tower or the controllers, just a STUDY. The FAA money you spend will be accounted for, and they have a hotline to report such fraud, waste, and abuse.

I’ll save you some time and money and tell you what that study will find:
1. You might need a control tower, along with a couple other much busier and more deserving airports in the area, like Fort Collins-Loveland, Greeley, and Front Range.
2. You’ll have to wait in line behind the above mentioned airports who are already further along in this process.
3. You probably can’t afford a control tower and the expense to actually put controllers in it to staff it.
4. The only reason you may not get as many noise complaints is because the tower will get the calls. The complaints won’t diminish; they’ll just be to another phone number.
5. The same people who complain now will complain with a tower. You will solve nothing noise-wise.
6. The area the tower would work, known as Class D airspace, will be no larger than 5 statute miles, and up to between 2,500 and 3,000 feet above the surface of the airport.
7. You will create new areas with increased noise at the edge of that 5 mile perimeter, which is over Pace St to the east, and Table Mountain to the west. Traffic north and Southbound that usually over fly near the airport will move outward to these areas. This traffic usually has nothing to do with Longmont Airport.
8. The traffic pattern will grow beyond its current size. Air Traffic Controllers have stricter separation requirements than we currently need or use here today. This means, as it does at Jeffco and Centennial, that aircraft will fly their downwinds and takeoff legs further away from the airport to keep the proper spacing. Separation is job number one to all air traffic controllers, noise abatement is a distant afterthought in comparison.
9. The pattern will be what the controller at the time needs. If that means right turns off the northwest runway instead of the standard left, so be it. If it means a straight-in right over the city, so be it. If it means hold outside of the airspace over Table Mountain, loud and low, so be that, too. And when people call to complain to the tower, safety will be given as the reason every time and the supervisor, manager, and regional headquarters will back up the controller all the way up and down the line.
10. This would be a Federally Contracted Tower, meaning trained and maintained by FAA standards, but staffed by non-federal, non-unionized, civilian employees. Perhaps that matters to some of you depending on your stance towards unions, it sure was brought up in the Super Wal-Mart debate. As a sideline, the FAA does not staff airports of this size with FAA controllers, in case you were wondering.
11. When after a couple years you find out you can’t continue to afford the tower, what alternate forms of airport income will you consider? More business’s, a restaurant, more hangars, you have to get the money some way? Can’t raise fuel taxes as it’s obvious you have price competition in the area. They’ll just buy it somewhere else. You can only gouge the current users so much and they and their money will leave. What have other airports in this situation done? Charter and airline service. That’s where the money is. Ask our airport neighbors how they feel about that possibility.

The communication you’ve received and will hear about tonight might surprise you when you see noise complaints were up for 2003. I bet all along since the new noise abatement procedure you’ve heard that complaints were down and in some of the testimony neighbors have said it seems better. Yet how convenient your staff has fudged the numbers somehow, probably by double and triple counting calls made by the same person to multiple answering machines. It’s a joke and I hope you see through it.
You have some of the neighbors statements in front of you. Keep this in mind when you read them: airplanes that do aerobatics 5-6 miles from Longmont, like Lyons or Table Mountain, MAY not be from Longmont. When you live under the new noise abatement procedure pattern, you will see and hear airplanes. When you live within 3 miles of an airport, you will see and hear airplanes. Some people will never be happy no matter what you do. The only mediation that works with some people are police officers and restraining orders.

So what’s this really all about? If you’ve been listening at all for the last couple years, you’ll know your Community Development Director has been trying to get into the pilot violation business and been told repeatedly by the FAA he, and you as a city, have no jurisdiction. Next logical move, if we can’t violate the airport users ourselves, we’ll get our own tower to do it for us. As I pointed out above, this just won’t happen. Do you need an expensive study to tell you that?

(Editors note: There was only a half-hearted attempt at trying to sell the tower to Council, it was shot down.)

About Chris Rodriguez

Chris is the editor/publisher of LightningRod Blog - as well as founder/editor of Wrongmont, Longmont Advocate, Vote!Longmont, Longmont Politics, the LightningRod Radio Network, as well as being the original Longmont Examiner. Chris is a writer and talker - whether it be blogs, podcasts, music, or public speaking. When he's not heard on Air Traffic radio, he can be heard on his podcasts or seen in the local paper causing trouble.
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