In this file photo, a flight navigates away from the gate and onto the runway at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.
ALBANY, Ga. — An official with the firm that is contracted to manage air traffic control at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport told the Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission Monday that planes flying in and out of the airport could be subject to significant delays if the Federal Aviation Administration leaves the airport’s federally manned control tower on a proposed closure list.
Dwayne Adams with Atlanta-based CI2(squared) Aviation said if landing/departure clearance at the Albany-based airport is turned over to the control tower at the Jacksonville, Fla., airport, only two runways (rather than the current three) would be utilized, and the quick turnaround that Delta flights from Atlanta now enjoy here would most likely become a thing of the past.
“Instead of landing here and remaining on the ground for 30 minutes, the planes could be here as long as two hours,” Adams said. “That would be an inconvenience. My main concern, though, is safety.
“If the tower here is closed on April 7, we’ll work with staff to make sure there are enough precautions in place to make Albany safe. We’re hoping (the threatened closures) are a good political scare, but we’ll strongly suggest if the tower closes that the airport have a contingency plan in place.”
The FAA sent notice Friday to almost 200 airports whose towers are on a closure list due to funding issues related to sequestration, telling officials at the airports the agency would need more time to consider appeals before finalizing the closures. FAA Chief Operating Officer David Grizzle said the agency would make the announcement Friday after considering all appeals.
Albany/Dougherty Aviation Commission Chairman Dr. Bill Mayher said there are a number of negative issues surrounding plans to close the local airport’s air traffic control tower.
“There are a lot of reasons we can’t lose that tower,” he said. “If we’re not able to give the weather (for landings and departures) to UPS, we could lose them. That would be devastating.
“I’m concerned that if they take the tower away for six to eight months or a year with no issues, they might say ‘you did fine without it and don’t really need a tower.’ ”
The Southwest Georgia Regional Airport’s appeal of its tower closure includes a report detailing a large new contract UPS has signed for next year that will bring an average of seven to 10 containers a day into Albany from a Dothan medical facility.
City Manager James Taylor asked if the appeal included commentary from top Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany brass outlining the importance of the airport to the base. Told that it did not, Taylor said the city’s federal lobbyist (Marion Turner) had suggested including such commentary.
The commission also discussed the Albany City Commission’s plan to have the airport director report directly to the city manager, leading Mayher to ask, “Then what is the purpose of this committee?”
City and Aviation commissioner Bob Langstaff said the move is being considered by the city to bring the Aviation Commission in line with other city-appointed commissions, such as the Water, Gas & Light and Planning commissions.
“The City Commission feels there is a need for consistency,” Langstaff said.
Asked by Mayher if the Aviation Commission might have a mandated say in issues such as the hiring and firing of a director, Taylor said that would not work.
“As city manager, it would be stupid of me not to include this board in such matters,” he said. “But it presents a problem if (the board’s) involvement is mandated. I can’t put out fires, so I have a fire chief. I can’t enforce the law, so I have a police chief. If they don’t do their job, I fire them. But I don’t tell them how to do their job.
“That’s what these commissions are appointed for, to deal with the day-to-day issues. But policy is ultimately made by the City Commission. That’s the way the city’s charter is drawn up.”