Air traffic control tower construction becoming a possibility in Will County

Samantha Carlson, Co-News Editor

While Will County officials have been preparing for the 2017 Fiscal Year Federal Agenda, a traffic control tower for Lewis University Airport is back on the discussion board.

Being the largest airport in Will County, many people believe that getting a tower will be a great enhancement and benefit to the community. Lewis aviation and air traffic control students can benefit greatly by getting hands-on experience with a control tower in the area. The towers sequence airplanes to runways, separate airplanes and control traffic to prevent collisions.

The airport is considered a reliever airport for O’Hare and Midway. In 2015, Lewis University Airport was named Reliever Airport of the Year by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Because Lewis Airport has a higher traffic level and is used for training purposes, the main idea for having a control tower focuses on the overall safety of the community.

While it has been discussed in previous years to build a control tower for the local airport, optimism is running high this year. Aviation professor Bill Parrot expressed his positive outlook on what this year could bring for the Lewis Airport.

“We are really encouraged by positive moves toward a tower. Almost, if not all, would agree that this would be a very beneficial move, especially for our air traffic control students to be able to see them enhance their education,” Parrot said. “Right now our airport is being operated like a four-way stop, so this will make things run smoother.”

It is not uncommon for smaller airports to be without a control tower, and the ones that do have a tower have a traditional brick and mortar tower. A new technology is being considered for a virtual tower, which would utilize cameras and sensors that send flight information to headquarters that could be miles away from the runway.

“Virtual towering would be one central control for five separate airports. It would also be a new concept to think about. Some would prefer to see a traditional tower but new technology or any form of positive control to enhance safety measures is beneficial,” Parrot said.

In the Federal Priorities statement released by Will County, officials showed their support in providing a control tower for the airport.

“Will County supports Lewis University Airport’s efforts to build and operate a permanent control tower. This tower would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the airport’s operations and make it a more attractive destination for other aircraft visiting the region,” officials stated.

A tower could cost around $6 million to construct, but Lewis is eligible for a discretionary grant — one that they have received in the past that was used to renovate the runways.

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