SELMA, Alabama — Craig Field, the airport and industrial park in Selma, will soon become home to the nation’s first Remote Tower Air Traffic Control Center and a unique training academy stemming from a project that could revolutionize airspace control services in the United States.
Advanced ATC Inc., an air traffic control academy in Valdosta, Georgia, is leading the project with plans to invest nearly $4.7 million to set up the Remote Tower Air Traffic Control Center (RTC) at the former U.S. Air Force base in Dallas County.
Remote tower technologies allow air traffic controllers to perform all the functions of a traditional control tower from a different location through the extensive use of cameras, real-time video and other advances.
No remote tower centers are in operation in the U.S., though the technology is rapidly gaining a foothold in Europe.
“Remote towers represent an important and innovative step in airspace modernization efforts in the U.S., and I’m excited to see Advanced ATC establish its pioneering operation at Craig Field,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“This virtual tower center represents another example of how our state is at the leading edge of trends shaping the future of aviation and aerospace for the U.S.”
‘CATALYST’ FOR CHANGE
The remote tower center in Selma will be equipped to support aviation expansion and air traffic control services for up to 40 airports across the nation. Plans for the RTC were outlined today at a ceremony today at Craig Field.
“The outlook for small airports to be able to afford ATC service without the requirement to build a $5-10 million control tower is now available with the advancement of camera and satellite technologies changing almost daily, ” said Dan Cunningham, chief operating officer at Advanced ATC.
“The Selma RTC will be the catalyst for this historic change in the United States,” he added.
Advanced ATC plans to hire 28 people for the Craig Field operation in the first year, with a $3.1 million annual payroll. The employment figure is expected to rise to as many as 119 within five years, creating an annual payroll of $8 million.
Advanced ATC is teaming with Spain-based Indra Corp., a maker of aviation navigation systems and a leader in remote tower technology, on the Selma project. Indra will provide staffing, software, and logistics support for all remote tower systems deployed in North America.
In addition, Advanced ATC will establish an international training academy at Craig Field — the first of its kind in the world — to provide operational training and certifications for the remote tower air traffic controllers. The academy is projected to house and train between 25 and 50 students per year.
“After several years of working with the Craig Field Airport Authority and the Selma & Dallas County Economic Development Authority, we are thankful for them being able to promote this project with the Alabama Department of Commerce and Governor Kay Ivey,” said Monica Cunningham, president Advanced ATC.
“We are thrilled to reach a win-win agreement and are very anxious to get started making aviation history at Craig Field.”
Brenda Tuck, Rural Development Manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the remote tower center project in Dallas County reflects the game-changing innovation that is taking place across the state’s rural communities.
“Advanced ATC’s virtual tower center project at Craig Field is set to blaze a new trail for the U.S. aviation industry by creating a practical air traffic control solution for many smaller airports in the nation,” Tuck said.
“This advancement will have a major impact, and it’s starting right here in rural Alabama.”
Officials in Selma welcomed plans for the groundbreaking remote tower center.
“Craig Field is proud to host Advanced ATC, Indra Corp., and this cutting-edge technology,” said Jim Corrigan, executive director of the Craig Field Airport & Industrial Authority. “This capability will provide controlled airspace and open the doors to future aviation development at this historic location.”
Wayne Vardaman, executive director of the Selma & Dallas County Economic Development Authority, said Advanced ATC’s Cunningham contacted him over a year ago about the possibility of locating the remote tower center at Craig Field.
“Jim Corrigan and I have been working on this project since I first brought it to him and have very high expectations on how it can attract future aviation to Craig Field,” Vardaman said.
(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)