July 25, 2008

Air Traffic Controllers Already on the Job

By David Tewes, Victoria Advocate, Texas

Jul. 25--Victoria's air traffic controllers are ready to take on the dual role of guiding aircraft near the airport while keeping an eye on the weather.

The six controllers have received federal certification in both areas in preparation for taking control of the local airspace next month.

"Those are very important steps that had to happen for the tower to be fully operational," Airport Manager Larry Blackwell said.

Jack Lill, air traffic control manager, told the Victoria Regional Airport Commission on Thursday all of the controllers passed the certification test given by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The controllers are already on duty from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, offering pilots advisory reports.

The certification will allow them to control movement of aircraft below 2,600 feet and within 5.4 miles of the airport beginning about Aug. 1.

"That will make the airport a much safer facility," Blackwell said.

Pilots have had to rely on an automated weather station for flying weather since the National Weather Service office closed in 1996.

The automated system sometimes malfunctions or even fails when the power is disrupted. It can also take critical minutes to recognize changes in the weather.

The automated station is at one end of the main runway and can't detect some weather conditions at the other end. It could be reporting a clear sky and seven-miles visibility when there's a rainstorm on the other side of the airfield, Lill said.

"So the controllers have to do a weather observation manually and look for and report any kind of weather," he said. "That's very important for pilots coming in."

David Tewes is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6515 or [email protected]


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