Hernando County Airport will be getting an Air Traffic Control Tower as County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to approve the measure to approve an operating agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration. The move will mean that the FAA will share expenses on the tower's operation.
Hernando's Airport was once used to as a training facility for the U.S. Army in World War II. Currently both military and civilian aircraft are using the Airport with just two full time controllers to keep the planes separated.
The airport will build and maintain the $1.7 to $3 million dollar tower from a state Department of Transportation grant as well as its own funds. According to the agreement, once built the FAA will handle the staffing. This decision will mean better control of the flight routes to take into account such things as local scheduled sports events, hospitals, so the planes can be re-routed where necessary for safety and noise abatement reasons.
The project is expected to take two years to reach completion and final decision making by the FAA will take place at that time in 2012.
Hernando County Airport, Florida
During the two year construction period multiple data-points will be recorded. Worries by some that air traffic at the Hernando Airport won't be enough to warrant continued FAA funding qualification for staffing the tower are largely unfounded as the airport far exceeds what is needed for FAA approval. Though many individual pilots feel no need for a tower, those who do are aware of the problem arising from multiple airplanes taking off and landing simultaneously and air traffic approaching the airport simultaneously from different vectors.
Furthermore, insurance rates at non-tower controlled airports are far higher for those businesses with airplanes, which is a factor keeping many lucrative businesses out of Hernando County which is otherwise a very attractive place for them to set up.
Another situation at present affecting safety is that pilots must use a common frequency to announce their positions and movements, far less safe than the tracking that can be done through a modern FAA tower. While the Hernando Airport has experienced no mid-air collisions or major incidents such as crashes or failed landings as of yet, risks with a properly staffed and well instrumented modern tower are far lower than without.
"We need more businesses setting up at the HC Airport Industrial Park, and more air traffic to and from Hernando, not less. Our economy is almost last in the state and unemployment is at 14%. Only making business easier to do here and insurance rates more attractive will turn this situation around" says David Curtis, Secretary of the Brooksville Business Alliance and owner of the Site "Hernando County Airport Industrial Park" the official web directory of all businesses currently located within the Airport Industrial Park.
In the St. Petersburg Times Hernando Times page 2, Gary E. Schraut (Chairman of the Hernando County Aviation Authority) asks those opposing the tower the following two questions:
"Do we pull over and park and say no to economic growth at the airport?
Or, do we move forward as we have done in the past, seizing opportunities to make our airport safer and work toward expanding the economic engine of Hernando County in order to add jobs and increase the tax base?"
Clough Harbour & Associates engineering firm of 1851 Collier Parkway, Lutz, FL - (813) 949-3524 is to determine the best site for the tower and begin design work for just over a quarter of a million dollars.