Troutdale Mayor supports petition, states concern for safety of pilots, communities

The Port of Portland is petitioning on multiple fronts to rescind the Federal Aviation Administration call to close the Troutdale Airport’s air traffic control tower.

Port representatives spoke at Tuesday’s Troutdale City Council meeting. Council members expressed their support in the effort.

“I am going to do everything I can to support continued use of the airport,” Mayor Doug Daoust said. He plans to draft a letter to the government expressing the city’s need to keep the air traffic tower open.

The Troutdale Airport, owned by the Port of Portland, is used by hobby pilots, instructors conducting flight training and for business class aviation. Last year it hosted 93,000 flights, making it the third busiest airport in Oregon behind Portland International Airport and Hillsboro airport.

It is one of 149 air traffic control towers at small- and medium-sized airports across the country that were scheduled to close over a four-week period from April 7 to May 5. The FAA has postponed Troutdale’s tower closure until June 15.

Closures are the result of the sequestration in Washington and the federal government’s call for reduction as the FAA lost $637 million in the automatic budget cuts.

A risk for the safety of pilots and airplanes, closures throughout the country are not being taken lightly.

The U.S. Contract Tower Association, which oversees all contract towers in the country, has filed a petition to FAA to request a review of all 149 towers scheduled to close, a suit supported by the Port of Portland.

Joining a dozen other airports across the country, the Port of Portland is also filing their own petition to the FFA to get review of Troutdale’s case.

Port of Portland’s General Aviation Manager Steve Nagy is not certain the FAA is aware of the complexity in shutting the Troutdale tower.

“We are certainly optimistic that they will review our case, whether they find favorably for us or not is hard to tell,” Nagy said.

Mainly, he said, the FAA needs to look at not only how shutting the Troutdale tower will affect the people who use it, but also the planes flying in and out of PDX International.

“The consequences of closing Troutdale’s tower would not only make Troutdale less efficient it would make PDX less efficient,”said Nagy.

Troutdale’s airport is essentially 8 miles from Portland International airport, said Nagy.

“Airspace is tightly integrated and woven together,” he added.

Because Troutdale’s airspace is knitted with PDX, air control at Troutdale is in constant communication with their towers, in addition to helping sequence their own planes efficiently and safely to arrive and depart from Troutdale.

If Troutdale’s tower shut down, PDX could expect consequences, like delayed flights, to their arrivals and departures.

“The FAA really needs to look at not just Troutdale airport and what it means to people who use it, but also planes that fly in and out of PDX,” Nagy said.

He said the Port of Portland is working with Oregon’s congressional delegation to make them aware of what sequestration is doing and what it means locally when an air traffic tower closes.

Nagy hopes these talks will lead to a restoration of funding for Troutdale’s program, if not now, in future federal budgets.

“We and other airports across the country would like to see this funding restored,” he said.

Mayor Daoust expressed his concern for the safety of pilots and aircraft flying into and out of Troutdale’s airport.

Private companies or contractors operate all of the towers being shut down, not the government, according to a previous article written by the Gresham Outlook on April 16.

He also is worried about the economic impacts on businesses at the airport if people decide to fly elsewhere.

“We want to make sure the businesses at airport remain highly viable,” he said.

Three other tower closures in Oregon include Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend, Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton and McNary Field in Salem.

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