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June 19, 2012
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Pike judge-exec urges local airport to be first to use virtual air traffic control system

Calls airport ‘perfectly suited for testing concept of virtual control tower’

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (June 19, 2012) – Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford is urging the Pikeville-Pike County Airport to become an early adopter of a new virtual air traffic control tower system.

“The Pikeville-Pike County Airport is perfectly suited for testing the concept of a virtual control tower,” Rutherford said. “If successful, this experiment could spawn major benefits for our airport.”

Rutherford sent a letter to Airport Board chair William Hickman and the other members of the airport board touting new aviation technology developed by Florida company Quadrex Aviation.

In his letter, Rutherford said the tower would be beneficial to airports that cannot justify a manned tower because of the low amount of air traffic. The tower’s basic function is to manage the airfield and immediate vicinity of the traffic pattern coming and going and those who are landing and taking off.

This system is being opposed by air traffic controllers at larger airports because they fear their jobs will be replaced by a computer, Rutherford said, but that is not an issue at the local airport because there is no air traffic controller on site.

The technology is a computer-driven virtual air traffic control tower. If successful, the tower could be tested at similar-sized airports, such as the Raleigh County Memorial Airport in Beckley, W.V.

“Our airport has the chance to be on the cutting-edge of new air traffic control technology, which is something that doesn’t present itself very often,” the judge-executive said.

The Pikeville-Pike County Airport would be the first in Kentucky to implement this system.

“We need this type of system at our airport to provide safety first and enhance the opportunity for growth,” Rutherford wrote. “It is my assertion the airport board needs to take bold steps and apply now for funding for this control tower.”

America’s local, smaller airports are at a historical juncture, he said.

 

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