Air Traffic Controllers Plea For Return Of Lakefront Tower

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New Orleans Lakefront Airport, from which NBAA decided to move its 2008 convention, has been lacking an operating control tower (with one 10-day exception surrounding the Sugar Bowl) since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. That, despite the FAA's announced commitment to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that a mobile control tower would be put in place, according to a release from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), and a May 10 letter from the entire Louisiana Congressional Delegation to restore air traffic control services. Lakefront's instrument landing system remains inoperative as well. As operations increase, they've not yet reached pre-Katrina numbers, but unsafe incidents have also been on the rise, and "will only increase as the airport gets busier," said Darrell Meachum, vice president of the Southwest Region for NATCA. Meachum is just one of several voices leaning in to support the airport. Both AOPA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Andy Cebula and NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen have added support to the airport, calling it a once "vibrant general aviation community" and "an important node in our system of airports." The FAA's latest commitment to restore control services at the airport is attached to a July 1 date, but NATCA says significant clean-up work necessary to enable that project has not yet begun, that the FAA has missed previous dates and that July 1 appears at this time an unrealistic estimate.