Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said if everything goes as planned, North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field could be in the Federal Aviation Administration's control tower program sometime in 2018.
Magers reminded the Grayson County Commissioners Court Tuesday that the control tower at NTRA is the only one in the entire country that is entirely funded by its owner. The county currently spends $300,000 a year to operate the tower including maintenance and staffing.
Magers said the air traffic at NTRA is increasing, but it has had enough traffic to be in the Federal Control Tower program for years.
“The combination of large aircraft operations, along with an active flight school operating at the field, necessitates continued operations of the tower and warrants participation in the Federal Control Tower program,” Magers said.
He also said the NTRA is currently listed with the FAA as an applicant for the program. An FAA benefit to cost analysis is needed to move NTRA from applicant to candidate.
Magers went to Washington, D.C. in June to check on the status of the airport's application to the program. He said there is a bill that has been passed by the appropriations committee but not yet voted on by the entire House of Representatives that calls on legislators to make sure that any reform made to the funding of control towers is fair, transparent and safe. The county judge said the letter was signed by 91 legislators, including Rep. John Ratcliffe.
“My point is our congressman and our senators are doing their job for our county,” Magers said.
Another correspondence he read came from American Association of Airport Executives Senior Executive Vice President Spencer Dickerson and said, “We have very good news to report on contract tower funding. The House appropriations committee approved last night the DOT, FAA appropriations bill for FY 2018 that includes, $160 million, $3 million more than the final FY 2016 and mandatory spending for the program.”
Magers said there are three types of towers — those that that the FAA completely funds, those that are partially funded and Grayson County which is not funded at all by the FAA.
The letter said the bill includes 16 towers in the cost share program, as well as spending flexibility for the FAA to add several new towers in fiscal year 2018.
“The problem we have had in Grayson County is that we are trying to get into the program and there hasn't been dollars allocated to bring new towers into the program,” Magers said.
Legislators asked the FAA what they did with the money that was given to them last year to bring more towers into the program, Magers said.
“The committee expects the FAA to continue to operate the 253 contract towers currently programmed including the contract cost share program as well as qualified airports that are eligible to enter the program and any other airport that may qualify during the fiscal year,” Magers read from the letter.
The letter also said that the FAA is to provide the committee with a plan to begin operations at qualified airports during the fiscal year.
“A qualified airport is an airport with a benefit cost ratio of over one, and don't ask me how that's calculated because I don't understand it, but the bottom line is we, at NTRA — Perrin Field are well above one and there are airports that are doing — we have 80,000 ops (operations) a year give or take — and there are airports in the program that are doing 20,000 ops with completely funded FAA towers,” Magers said.
He said the math works out in Grayson County's favor, but the bill still has to go to the House for the full vote and then make it through the Senate.
Magers said all of that is not likely to happen before the county has to start work on its FY 2018.