May 31, 2018

Mobile ATC Tower
A mobile air traffic control tower will be operating again this summer at Virginia’s Leesburg Executive Airport (JYO), requiring operators flying under both VFR and IFR to contact the tower.

The remote tower concept employs a variety of high-definition cameras and sensors to enable controllers in a remote facility to manage airports that do not have a tower.

Use of the mobile ATC tower at JYO is part of a joint effort by the FAA and Virginia Small Aircraft Transportation System Laboratory, Inc., which is using Saab Sensis’ technology to evaluate the safety and practicality of the remote tower concept for possible use at Leesburg.

The FAA plans to initiate Phase 3a of Leesburg’s remote tower program on June 25. For approximately the first 30 days, the hours of operation will be 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. local time.

Pilots using JYO during the test period, even those who frequently fly into the airport, should play close attention to NOTAMs, said Heidi Williams, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure. Williams emphasized that pilots should continue to follow the conditions of the JYO Maneuvering Area, which are detailed in the special flight rules area NOTAM.

The cost of implementing a remote tower “is significantly less than doing a full stand-up tower,” Williams said. Such remote tower facilities offer the “benefit of controlled traffic at airports that are unable to afford the construction and maintenance of a full stand-alone tower.” Those remote facilities offer an enhanced layer of safety at what otherwise would be an uncontrolled airport, she added.

JYO has a single 5,500-foot landing strip (Runway 17-35). The airport, which is owned and operated by the town of Leesburg, had an estimated total of more than 117,000 operations in 2017, based on FAA terminal area forecast data. There are about 250 aircraft based at JYO.