May 16, 2017

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

The remote tower concept uses a variety of high-definition camera and sensors to enable controllers in a remote facility to serve 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 first phase of testing began at JYO during a one-month period last fall. This year’s tests begin June 5 and run through Aug. 12, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, and then will run from 4 p.m. to midnight Aug. 13 through Sept. 8.

Pilots using JYO during the test period, even those who frequently fly into the airport, should pay close attention to NOTAMs, said Heidi Williams, director of air traffic services and infrastructure for NBAA. Williams stressed that pilots should continue to follow the conditions of the JYO Maneuvering Area, which are detailed in the SFRA NOTAM.

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

The FAA is hosting a pilot town hall meeting on this issue at 7 p.m. May 25 at the airport.

Learn more about Leesburg Executive Airport.