weather icon Clear

Consult pilots about need for air control tower

Did you know that there are over 15,000 public and private airports in the United States, and only 300 or so are served by the airlines? There are only 648 airport control towers in the entire nation. Therefore, there are approximately 14,000 airports without control towers. So, the question is: Does our tiny airport need a control tower?

Our airport does not have any training facilities or flight schools nor does it have on-site charter operations. Our airport is not served by the airlines or any cargo activity. We do have Grand Canyon tour operations based here but they have not negatively impacted our air traffic.

I’m far from being an aviation expert but, I’ve been a pilot since 1975 and began flying for hire in 1982 operating everything from small private propeller planes to larger DC3 transport planes and private jets. In my many years, I have flown in and out of airports with and without control towers.

Recently, I have been piloting flights in a private jet to Ketchikan and Sitka, Alaska. Both of these airports are served by two airlines, Alaska and Delta, as well as countless charter aircraft and general aviation craft. These often-busy airports do not have control towers nor do they have local radar coverage similar to Boulder City.

Sitka’s airport also has a U.S. Coast Guard base and FedEx facility there. Still, no control tower.

It is important to understand how the Federal Aviation Administration determines whether or not an airfield justifies a control tower. While many factors come into play, generally, it has to do with the number of takeoffs and landings that occur on a daily basis. The current number that seems to be prevalent on a number of websites for Boulder City is 300, which is obviously inflated since there is no one that observes the daily operations in order to make an accurate count and my personal observation refutes that number.

What our city officials are using to justify the need for a tower are not factual numbers; it is “anecdotal evidence.” Look it up; it is thought provoking.

Currently and since 2003, I have flown our Cessna 210 (a single-engine prop plane) from the Boulder City airport without any issues. There has never been a midair collision at our airport, a testament to the professionalism of the many pilots who frequent our airfield. Sure, there have been a few near misses but they can and do occur at a towered airports as well.

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast is currently in every cockpit of every airplane and helicopter that operates at our airport. Mandated at the beginning of last year, all aircraft are required to have this system installed, which, in most instances, let pilots know the position of other aircraft in the area.

Another technology that nearly all turbine-powered aircraft are required to have is Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System. Both of these technologies have been invaluable tools to assist in avoiding potential midair collisions. Ask your City Council member what ADS-B or TCAS is and you will get a deer-in-the-headlights stare. You see, the average person doesn’t have the aviation knowledge to understand how pilots can safely manage a flight into and out of a nontowered airfield.

Frankly, I don’t expect them to. Aviation is a unique activity requiring communication skills and airspace knowledge as well as piloting ability. What the general public needs to understand is that nontowered airports are safe. Remember, there are over 14,000 of them that operate safely.

So, why does Boulder City need an airport tower? Traffic control is the general idea (which may or may not provide additional safety). All aircraft movement on the ground and in the air would be controlled by tower personnel, which can cause delays and additional workload for the pilot. Isn’t it interesting that we have a City Council making a decision about our airport with little or no aviation knowledge a la “anecdotal evidence”?

Why hasn’t anyone reached out to the pilot community to get their opinion on the matter? What this airport really needs is an office complex that is lease ready for a flight school, charter ops and perhaps a restaurant. Additional hangers are a must, especially for slightly larger aircraft.

The runway length is certainly not an issue for the majority of aircraft that currently operates here. Lengthening the runway will only encourage larger craft to arrive, causing noise and parking concerns.

So, do we need a tower? Maybe, maybe not. Why not have a workshop/seminar and invite the pilots that use our airport to discuss the pros and cons. Perhaps this would lead to a better understanding of what our airport requirements truly are.

The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited solely for grammar, spelling and style, and have not been checked for accuracy of the viewpoints.

G. Kevin Savord is currently a professional pilot and former small business owner. He can be reached at gksavord@gmail.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Bishop’s ordination filled the soul

Hundreds of devout souls came out Friday to celebrate one of Boulder City’s own, the Rev. Gregory Gordon, who was ordained as the first auxiliary bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas.

Extend warm welcome to new council members

Tuesday, the city welcomed its two new council members, Matt Fox and Sherri Jorgensen. I wish them all the best as they begin this new chapter in their lives.

Some information bears repeating — often

So often we say or write something and the intended audience takes it in a completely different way from what you planned or ignores it totally. What do you do?

Does city desire family housing?

Many issues seem to be a perpetual part of Boulder City politics. One of those that always seems to arise during an election is how does Boulder City continue to keep our schools filled with children? Over half the population of Boulder City is older than 50.

Commentary: Water conservation remains key to sustainable future

The last time Lake Mead was at 35 percent capacity, it was being filled in the 1930s. While ongoing drought and climate change have created an uncomfortable reality and stressed water supplies, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has been preparing for this for almost 20 years. Now, with a federal shortage declaration just weeks away, our community’s commitment to conserving our limited water resources takes on a new urgency as we strive to protect the vibrancy of the place that more than two million of us call home.

Public utility commission needed for social media

Holding and reading a newspaper is old school these days. However, Facebook, and other social media platforms, have given us the power of instant feedback. I said in a previous column that all feedback is good, even when it is negative.

Enjoy July’s many gifts

Today is July 1 and it marks the beginning of one of my favorite months of the year.

New leaders will bring fresh perspective to city

The recent municipal election resulted in two new council members being elected. I congratulate Sherri Jorgensen and Matt Fox on their elections and welcome their input on City Council.

All Americans deserve health care

Who out there likes to see people suffer? Raise your hand, please. I am dead serious.

Better spending would leave funds for pool

Neighbors, I have lived in Boulder City since 1979 and the new pool was just being built. Now the discussion (is) of a new pool to replace the old pool and the main topic is money.