Craig Field To Get U.S.’s First Remote Tower ATC Center

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The Selma Economic Development Authority has announced plans to set up a Remote Tower Air Traffic Control Center at Craig Field (SEM) in Selma, Alabama. The project will be led by Valdosta, Georgia-based air traffic control academy Advanced ATC Inc. and conducted in partnership with Spain’s Indra Corp., which will provide staffing, software and logistics support. The center is expected to be the first of its kind in operation in the U.S. and is designed to allow air traffic controllers to “perform all the functions of a traditional control tower from a different location through the extensive use of cameras, real-time video and other advances.”

“Remote towers represent an important and innovative step in airspace modernization efforts in the U.S., and I’m excited to see Advanced ATC establish its pioneering operation at Craig Field,” said Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce Greg Canfield. “This virtual tower center represents another example of how our state is at the leading edge of trends shaping the future of aviation and aerospace for the U.S.”

Advanced ATC plans to invest $4.7 million in the Remote Tower Air Traffic Control Center along with hiring 28 people for Craig Field operations in the first year. In addition, Advanced ATC intends to establish an international training academy at SEM to “provide operational training and certifications for the remote tower air traffic controllers.” A timeline for the project was not announced.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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33 COMMENTS

    • Do we really need people? I mean every kid now has A.D.D.
      You really want them… ‘controlling’ your flight?
      This is exactly what I envisioned 30 years ago when playing computer games that graded my ATP check ride. I was an ATC radar tech and saw this coming back then, even without ADS-B.

  1. Can’t tell if this is an optimistic statement, a pessimistic statement, or simply an objective statement regarding the shifting of operations from direct human operation to machine operation.

    • That was my concern with ATC a long time ago… yes, in many cases everything depends on one line of communication. And has for decades.

  2. On the bright side, no one is going to ask you to “Call the Tower.” (Altho if there is a violation, I suppose that there will be video – altho in another country?)

    • Can still call the tower. Only the call won’t go to the camera tower, but the remote, dark room with pissed-off controllers in it.

  3. Well isn’t it nice that those controllers can be on the “left coast” somewhere and be getting paid to run the Selma tower. That way on payday they spent their paychecks in anywhere else not Selma. Doesn’t that sound nice. Way to go “Selma Economic Development Authority”.

  4. This is like the first moving map GPS. It will start out crude and nominally helpful but become expected. A decade from now most all airports will have remote towers and bring back the old classic FSS/Unicom but include 24/7 traffic separation.

    Even airports that only have a couple hundred operations a day will have a remote tower with weather, traffic, ground and ground services’ information. Of course the lowest bidder will provide the controllers. CTAF will be uncommon and most pilots won’t understand how to use it. Kinda like CTAF is now. 😉 “Airport WXYZ, this is airplane N123, is anyone in the pattern?”

    • No… it will go from person controlled to computer controlled. Get out of line and the computer will report you… kind of like red light cams and speeding cams.
      No more screwing around.

  5. I’m not a Union guy. But I wonder what the National Air Traffic Controllers Association thinks about this. And, more crucially, what they will do about this.

    • Nothing. They don’t have a leg to stand on. Its not an FAA tower or even government funded. They have nothing to fight for. If the union gets involved somehow in some way the project will explode in cost 10 fold. As far as what they are thinking….they, like most unions, are not there for their membership but more for their political power and membership revenue.

    • When I was a member of PASS, they did nothing really but make a paid position for someone to hang out with management… they usually ended up in management. Never once saw a union rep, actually help a union member.
      There was talk 30 years ago to make all ATC private. I responded, who will insure them? There will no longer be government protection.

  6. And I wonder if there will be “self-driving” Controllers coming to a Tower near you? (I.e., AI.)

  7. FNL is 90 percent done with this project. https://www.flynoco.com/about/remote-tower/

    Additionally NATCA is on board with the FNL/RTS program. I believe this will make it easier for the hard to staff facilities due to their cost of living, airports such as ASE and ACK. The program could also be fiscally responsible if the government doesn’t screw it up. These remote towers could be located at a large TRACON or ARTCC’s thus saving the government money because they would no longer have to maintain a tower/equipment at the actual airport.

  8. Oh great! So now controllers have to watch the radar AND video screens? That’s a 100% increase in workload. Attn. Controllers present, future, and wannabes – there will NEVER be a good time to quit sniffing glue.

  9. So say a pilot without ADSB flying into a remote airport runway, and another pilot flying in with ADSB was cleared by the remote tower, better both be looking for traffic. Although that is always a good idea, it becomes even more so with automated.

  10. Seems like a lot of money and a bunch of people to work 7-8 aircraft per hour.
    (38,559 operations/yr. 105/day, avg 7-8/hour)

    • I think the numbers were over exaggerated… for the money of course.
      Auburns airport has more operations… but it is white.

  11. Every non-Fed tower controller should be looking over their shoulder. Once your tower building is outdated/needing repairs, the remote tower will take your positions. Yes, you could get a job at the “Remote Center” for tower ops, but you’d be moving to a larger city, most likely, with the same pay. Sounds a lot like the Lockheed FSS takeover.

    • My understanding is that they are promoting it as the first remote tower center, not the first remote tower, in the U.S.

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