Grayson County Judge Bill Magers told county commissioners that he is taking a trip next week to check on the status of the attempt by the county and others to get the control tower at the North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field into the Federal Aviation Association's contract tower program.
Magers will be attending the American Association of Airport Executives workshop and will miss next week's Commissioners Court meeting to have meetings with local representatives like U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
“I am attending with Texas Aviation Partners — Jim Wimberly and Steve Alexander and I are going,” Magers said.
It was the first update the court has had on the plan since Donald Trump was elected president. Magers noted Trump's recently announced plan to privatize the nation's air traffic control system could remove the job of tracking and guiding the nation's air traffic from the job description of the Federal Aviation Administration.
An article on NPR says Trump's plan is “guided by legislation that has been proposed in the past by House Transportation Committee chairman Bill Shuster” and would see a private, “nonprofit corporation created to operate, manage and control air traffic control nationwide,” which is similar to what Canada does. The article also states the FAA would still have some oversight capacity, but a board made up of representatives of the major airlines would govern the corporation.
Magers said he understands the idea behind the president's plan is that the nation's air traffic control system is “woefully behind the times.” The county judge said he is not sure that he agrees with that assessment, because he feels the U.S. “has the safest air in the world.”
He said it doesn't really matter, however, what local officials think about the Trump plan. What matters, Magers said, is how that plan might impact the county's ability to get NTRA into the control tower program.
In previous updates, Magers has told commissioners that inclusion in the program could mean the FAA would provide over $550,000 of funding for the tower. The county currently puts around $275,000 from the general budget into the tower program at NTRA.
Information about the program on the AAE website says the FAA currently provides for the contract operation of control towers at 253 airports.
Magers said no matter how one looks at it, NTRA deserves to be in that group with those other 253 towers.
“(NTRA) has over 80,000 operations annually,” Magers said.
Magers said NTRA is one of very few airports in the country that doesn't get some sort of support from the federal government.
He said he will report back to the court after the trip about what he finds out.