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Economic Development
Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Apr. 8, 2013 7 years ago

Airport control tower to remain open, operational during legal battle

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The Ormond Beach Municipal Airport control tower won't close until an appeals process has been finalized.

BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER

The Ormond Beach Municipal Airport will keep its control tower open for longer than expected, while the decision to close April 7 due to sequestration cuts is appealed in federal court.

Legal proceedings could last until June 15 — and that's good news for certain business owners around the airport, who fear the closure could mean bad things for the health of their company.

“It’s going to affect the business in the future,” said Richard Lemke, owner of Rams Aviation, an aircraft maintenance business. “A lot of pilots are coming from other airports — 20% come to the airport from others — and they like having the control tower.”

Lemke said the tower closure, coupled with a rent increase, may force him to leave the Ormond Beach location and try for a location in Flagler County, instead. But selling his hangar, at an airport without an active control tower, he said, could be difficult.

The agreement to stay open included the cities dropping the emergency stay that was filed, and lawyers for both sides filing brief schedules this week, which will need to be approved by the court.

Mainly, the cities feel the FAA didn’t comply with its own safety regulations, policies and protocols, says Peter Kirsch, Ormond Beach’s counsel, in evaluating the situation brought on by the sequester.

Kirsch said the FAA also didn’t conduct an environmental impact study, which would examine the possibility of increased traffic at the Daytona Beach International Airport, increased noise around airports in larger cities and other impacts.

If the tower is closed indefinitely, the city would have the option to reopen as a non-federal tower, without federal funding.

“Our experience is it takes six to nine months to get approval for a non-federal tower, just to get approval for all these hurdles,” Kirsch said.

A non-federal airport also has to acquire the radio frequency needed to operate the tower and communicate with pilots. The frequency, Kirsch said, is controlled by the FAA and would need to be released and reassigned by Federal Communications Commission.

The FAA would need to reallocate airspace to the city, as well. Contracting issues, like leasing or purchasing airport equipment and the recertification of tower workers would also need to be resolved.

But hopefully, by June 15, the issue is settled, and in the city's favor, Kirsch said — although like much of Ormond's future in air travel, an end date remains uncertain.

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