With the recent passage of two government funding bills, U.S. lawmakers from Virginia are highlighting $7 million for the Federal Aviation Administration for its remote tower systems pilot program.
The funding will aid smaller airports, including the Remote Tower Center partnership between Leesburg Executive Airport and Saab Technologies, as well as similar remote tower pilot projects being developed around the country.
U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) co-sponsored the amendment for the fiscal 2020 budget along with U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho).
In a joint statement, the senators said, “We’re pleased to support Leesburg Airport as it fully implements this exciting remote tower technology—the first of its kind in the nation—to improve safety and efficiency at this growing airport while supporting the regional economy.”
As part of the remote tower systems pilot program, air traffic controllers are able to work remotely, which could help ease capacity and staffing constraints, according to congressional staff.
“Congresswoman Wexton, Sen. Kaine and Sen. Warner have long been champions for advancing transformational technology. Their support for the remote tower pilot program is advancing safety and efficiency in air traffic control at the Leesburg Airport, where Saab is a proud partner,” said Jana Murphy, senior vice president for corporate affairs for Saab North America.
After lobbying for the funding in Washington D.C., Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk said the program is a “great asset for the town.”
“We most certainly are very proud of this remote tower, and we want to make sure that it's funded so that we can keep it running the way it should be running,” Burk said.
On Dec. 20, President Donald Trump signed off on the amendment that was included in a nearly $1.4 trillion spending bill to keep the government funded through Sept. 30, 2020.