If selected by the Federal Aviation Administration, Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey could become the third airport in the country to use remote cameras instead of direct viewing of planes for air-traffic control.
The FAA has set a deadline of 2023 for removal of the air-traffic-control tower from the east side of the runway as part of the airport’s runway safety improvements plan. An option is to replace the tower with digital technology, known as DTT, which sends video images of the airfield and surrounding terrain from a much smaller tower of cameras to a remote office.
According to analysis by Denver-based consultant Jviation presented to the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority board Tuesday, the remote DTT technology is cheaper, allows the office to be anywhere at the airport and provides a more comfortable and safe working space.
The study put the cost of a new conventional tower at $4,276,846 and the cost of a DTT system at $3,682,990.
Though the technology is still new, a prototype installation exists at Leesburg, Va. That facility has been in a test phase for nearly two years and is expected to become fully certified in the next 18 to 24 months, according to Friedman Airport Manager Chris Pomeroy. A digital tower at the Fort Collins-Loveland airport in Colorado is in its early stages of development, Pomeroy told the board.
Congress has authorized the FAA to pursue two additional DTT installations at airports with existing federal contract towers, with some FAA funding attached to it.
Following the presentation Tuesday, the board directed staff to apply for Friedman to be one of those two airports.
During the presentation, Bill Payne, of Centennial, Colo.,-based William E. Payne and Associates, estimated the number of other airports vying for one of the two facilities at four or five. However, Friedman is in a unique position in that it is being required to relocate its control tower. The FAA has stated that it will focus on airports that need that replacement, Payne said.
According to a memo from Jviation to Pomeroy, the FAA is working to develop requirements regarding human factors and certification steps.
Payne said four primary vendors offer DTT systems. The basic components are similar: an array of cameras to provide visual surveillance and other FAA-required equipment such as radio communications, weather information and administrative equipment.
The Jviation study stated that the likely timeline for either a conventional tower or a DTT system is about three to five years. Risks involved in pursuing DTT include possible lack of funding from the FAA and possible hurdles for certification.
In other airport news:
l The runway will be closed June 5 from 8:15 a.m. to 9 p.m. and June 6 from 8:15 a.m. to roughly 5 p.m. for scheduled pavement marking. The schedule will allow for early-morning and late-evening use of the airport.
l Construction on an additional terminal air-carrier-apron and parking lot improvements are also going smoothly, with parking lot opening projected for May 8.
l A public hearing will be scheduled for some time in June to gather public comment on potential acquisition of 64.6 acres from Eccles Flying Hat Ranch, adjacent to the southern end of the airport, to allow compliance with the FAA’s required runway protection zone for flight approaches and departures.