The FAA is being asked to reconsider its decision to close the remote air traffic control tower at Virginia’s Leesburg Executive Airport (JYO) on June 14, 2023. Parties expressing concerns over the upcoming closure include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., Senators Mark Warner, D-Va., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk. JYO was the first remote air traffic control system test site in the U.S. with testing beginning in 2015.
Developed by Saab Sensis, JYO’s remote tower system provides ATC services via off-site controllers using on-airport cameras and microphones. It was deemed operationally viable by the FAA in September 2021, though limited to airports like JYO, which has a single 5,500-foot runway. According to the FAA, the decision to close the Leesburg remote tower came after Saab informed the agency last February that it would no longer be pursuing FAA System Design Approval for the prototype tower at JYO.
It has been reported that JYO’s tower has provided services for more than 174,000 operations to date with annual airport operations increasing 47 percent since continuous ATC services began in 2018. The airport, which does not have an on-site tower, was also accepted into the FAA’s Federal Contract Tower program in October 2020.
“It is concerning that over a dozen safety assessments, an operational viability decision and years of operational experience, as well as robust investments by the FAA and industry are being discarded and services will come to an end on the cusp of a busy summer travel season,” NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen wrote in a recent letter (PDF) to acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen. “The complexities of the Washington, DC airspace and the mix of operations at JYO are not trivial and must be considered before the remote tower services end.”