After nearly six years of effort, North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field will be included in the Federal Aviation Administration’s federal contract tower program. This inclusion will allow the FAA to fully fund the operations of the airport’s lone control tower.
“We are pleased to inform you that North Texas Regional Airport will become an official participant in the Federal Aviation Administration Contract Tower Program, effective October 1, 2018,” The FAA said in a letter to airport officials Thursday.
Under the program, the FAA will pay for the staffing of the airport’s control tower, taking the responsibility from Grayson County. Historically, the County has invested nearly $300,000 annually in tower operations, but County Judge Bill Magers said the FAA funding could be more than $500,000 annually.
“We will no longer pay for the tower, so that is $300,000 that stays with the county and local taxpayers,” Magers said.
The efforts to get the airport included in the program started around 2012, but the program was sidelined in 2013 with the government sequestration, which stalled efforts for multiple airports. Once additional funding was approved for the program more than a year later, the FAA considered changes to the admittance criteria, further slowing the process for NTRA.
In April, the airport was formally accepted as a candidate for the program, putting it on a short list of airports close to being fully accepted. Following this, airport officials invested nearly $100,000 in improvements to the tower aimed at bringing it up to the minimum equipment requirements set for airports in the program and in preparation for formal inspections of the airport by the FAA in August.
These inspections found a single item that needed to be addressed before being admitted to the program — a six-foot, chain-link security fence. Airport officials started work on the improvement less than a week later.
Earlier this summer, airport officials said they expected the airport to be accepted by Oct. 1 — the start of the new fiscal year. This put the project well ahead of the expected inclusion date of some time in early 2019.
“That is pretty aggressive, but that’s what I am hearing from everybody,” NTRA Airport Manager Bob Torti said in August. “If things go well, Oct. 1 should be it, which is three to four months sooner than we thought.”
With the changeover, Magers said he believes that all of control operators in the tower will continue to work at NTRA under service provider Robinson Aviation. The tower’s operational hours will run from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., however, Torti previously said there is a possibility of having these hours extended to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Previously, Magers and Torti said inclusion of the airport in the program could be used to help market it to potential tenants, developers, and business traffic due to the prestige associated with the program. Magers compared the inclusion of the airport in the program to the effect having an interstate in a community has on its freight traffic.
For his part, Magers said that the success in getting the airport in the program was not a single-person effort, but instead took the efforts of many groups and individuals. Among the ones he highlighted were U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, Texas Aviation Partners former NTRA Airport Director Mike Shahan and Grayson County Commissioners.
“It truly is a team effort,” Magers said. “It is government at work in the best of ways.”