Re April 3 letter by Robert McGroarty, “Airport at risk without operating tower”
I've read several articles reference the closing of CRE tower at North Myrtle Beach and Mr. McGroarty is correct with his concerns. It's a situation where you need to be there or to have seen it firsthand. I've been there and done that. A few things to note:
1. Pilots will not be talking to another control tower. IFR aircraft (fly in bad weather) will call Myrtle Beach approach control (MYR) and receive services. VFR aircraft (good weather flying) may or may not call MYR for service. The bottom line is there will be no one in the tower to ensure a safe takeoff or landing, the most critical phase of flight.
2. One of the most important aspects of air traffic control will be lost: the controller exchanging traffic between known traffic and unknown ( possible no radio) traffic. The pilots’ primary responsibility is to fly the aircraft and secondarily look for traffic and avoid them. You close the tower, that asset in air traffic is gone. Granted, pilots can and will tell others where they are and their intentions, but it's not the same.
3. I worked at CRE (June ’84 - September ’96) and at MYR (September ’96 to September 2012) and was hired to help relieve three retired military controllers (over 75 combined years experience). These guys were working between 300 and 600 operations a day and it was chaotic to say the least.
CRE tower was reopened in May of 1984 after being closed for over three years after the 1981 air traffic strike. It was reopened for safety issues. There were two banner-tow companies with 12-14 aircraft, two to three small sightseeing Cessna Skyhawks and a bi-wing sightseeing Waco aircraft. This influx of traffic, mixed in with other general aviation turboprops/jet and military caused a lot of problems.
4. Contract towers are money savers for the Federal Aviation Administration. They shouldn't be closed down due to sequestration issues. Reduce the controllers’ hours but don't make the same mistake the FAA did almost 30 years ago.