Dave Ulane with remote tower update

In late 2013, the FAA provided 8 million dollars for this project as the next evolution of the Mountain Radar Program, WAM program that provides radar coverage all the way to the ground in several of the airports in the north central and south west part of the state.

Back in November, the FAA finally, after a couple of years of putting all the technical stuff together, issued what they call “a request for info”, which is basically an invitation to bid. The solicitation closed on Feb 10, 2017, and since then a huge team of folks from the NextGen office has been vetting those proposals. They have identified a preferred vendor and are in the process of negotiations. Who they have chosen should be available soon. I can tell you all four of the responses were incredibly well known and they each have the technical ability to do this project.

Once the vendor is selected, the next step will really kick off and you’ll start seeing a lot of things begin to happen out here. Initially, the vendor will do a site survey and later this summer you’ll see utilities start to go in. Equipment should begin to go in shortly after that as they figure out where the remote facility will go. At the moment, this facility is expected to be housed on airport property for cost and simplicity.

The project will initially be a passive test – there will be no class Delta airspace here, no functioning air traffic control. What they will do during that phase is set up the cameras, integrate the radar feed from TRACON and test it. Are the cameras in the right spot, are they the right kind of cameras, are the video monitors in the control room at the right height, etc. All the human factor kind of things. Then once they get comfortable with that they will start turning on the class Delta airspace by NOTAM and begin tests as a controlled airspace environment.

It will be a 2 – 2 1/2 year project. The goal is not just to have air traffic control services here at Northern Colo Regional, but to establish the future certification requirements for having a remote tower. This will enable other airports to put in a remote tower and essentially duplicate what has been created at FNL. That’s a huge benefit for a lot of other airports in our state that could use a tower.

One comparison often used is the system at Leesburg. While it is functional, they have partnered with Saab and the FAA is not involved with it. Leesburg is a camera only system. FNL will integrate radar from Denver TRACON facility in Platteville so instead of a little blip, you will be able to overlay radar data and you can tell “oh that a 172 and it’s X miles away and it’s at this altitude which gives a lot more situational awareness to the controllers than you would get in Leesburg just looking out the window and seeing a dot.

Plan on runway 6/24 not being available while the tower is operational. When the tower is turned off it goes back to being operational as Class E airspace. We will be keeping an eye on this development.

The time line is the first part of the year they will begin installing equipment. The system will be optimized and testing will take place the next year and then the system will be operational early 2019.

The policy part of this is just as important as the technology piece. If we had a traditional tower it would be a contract tower and not operated, staffed or maintained by the FAA. The kicker here is that the current law allows remote control towers to be eligible for inclusions in the federal contract program. When you’re eligible for participation in that program, it saves the airport several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year of controllers cost that FNL would have to pick up. Work is being done to update regulations to include eligible remote control towers in the next FAA authorization bill so that any remote control tower that meets the regulations can fall under the funding of a contract tower.

In February Jason went to Washington and met with 8 of their 9 congressional delegations and received a lot of support. They also spent half an hour with FAA administrator Michael Huerta who supports the idea. This would only add two lines to the regulations.

Airport update from Jason Licon

Regarding the FAA and the name change, they are hoping for either June 22nd or Aug 17th to coincide with the 56-day airspace cycle they have for publications. In the mean time, logos on shirts, equipment, and some of the logos have begun to be changed up and down Earhart. As you come into the airport you will see a new name and new layouts on the signage. Signs along I-25 south bound are already changed. As soon as the interchange is complete on Crossroads, the north bound will be erected. Over the next 30 – 60 days the rest should be up. The signs are kind of a bronze color and show where parking and General Aviation are and such.

Once the transition is complete, they’ll start recommending the use of the new name with CTAF. We know it won’t catch on for at least 10 years just like Jeffco – that was 11 years ago. We need to prep ourselves for when we do have a remote tower because that will be something that will be needed when talking to controllers.

The big project they are working on this year is pavement preservation. They will be doing a lot of crack seal, seal coating and pavement marking replacement and will try to cover every square inch with this project. FNL was approved for a 1 million dollar grant this year to be applied to this.

They were also able to obtain a state grant from the Division of Aeronautics for a 5% match, so they got a $55,000 grant from the state on putting seal coat into the airport, enhancing useful pavements, reducing risk of FOD, marking contrasts. It really helps when it snows.

Some signs will be replaced as a part of this project.

There is a time line for this project, though. Right now they are in the final design phase of getting everything put together and will be advertising for bids soon and hoping to shoot for June 1st.  FAA policy is first you get bids then they give you the grant. Hopefully, that will happen around July 31st to target a start in late August or early September.

The project will effect runway 15-33 ramp area, hangars, and taxi lanes – It will effect everyone.  They are trying to phase it in a way that will impact everyone the least.

The 15 feet around hangars are not eligible for this funding.  Jason will be reaching out to the hangar owners in an effort to help offset the cost of the hangar owner’s responsibility similar to previous years.  Currently they estimate about $1.30 per square yard.

First phase will be the Charley/Alpha 3 intersection and the Alpha taxiway down to runway 624. There will be a test section on that area for the pavement seal coating for the 1st step so that they can allow 624 to be used when they are doing the primary runway. This should be a 2 day time frame where this will be closed and sealed and then the next step will be the phase 1 which will be the main runway taxiway. This should take about 5 days. That will include 2 seal coat applications and pavement markings.  They anticipate the entire project will take 2 weekks.

Phase 2 would be ½ the ramp. North ramp and north ½ of all the T hangars. That will be followed with another 3 day project and do the other side.  The plan is to keep things open, hopefully people can move airplanes around in order to accommodate everyone.

There is also a 3rd phase for Northrup extension section taxiway Delta.  As we find out more we will share the final dates as to when this will occur and hopefully everyone can plan ahead as it relates to getting ready for that.  The Airport will be issuing NOTAMS and emailing badge holders of what the anticipated dates are. It will also be on their website, Facebook, Twitter and here at the jet center.

They will also be extending the Stearman taxi way with some possible rehabilitation of the existing taxiway of the hangars along Stearman to accommodate some of the new hangars that will be built by the FNL hangar group.  There are two hangars right now that are actually on the ground and are looking at the possibility of a few more, so this extension will help a lot.