Scott Fuller, Airport Authority manager, told the Gulf Shores City Council that he expects the Jack Edwards National Airport to be one of the first in the nation to receive a new air traffic control tower.
During a July 1 work session Fuller explained that the Federal Aviation Administration’s budget has funds assigned for the construction of new towers. The Airport Authority has received word that it will be one of the first to receive funds. The Airport Authority has already spent $500,000 on the bid and design of a 65-foot tower.
Fuller said the Airport Authority expects approval from the FAA in October, 2019 and will be ready to bid in November, 2019.
“We did volunteer with the FAA to be the guinea pigs of this whole new program. It revolves around how it works with Gulf Shores and the design of the new tower,” Fuller said.
If the FAA follows through on the funding, the Authority hopes to have the tower operational in January, 2021.
At Monday night’s work session, the Airport Authority also requested a pledge of financial support from the city for new air services. The Authority is pursuing a grant through the Small Community Air Service Development Program but is prohibited by the program from providing the matching share required.
The Authority is asking the City of Gulf Shores to join with Orange Beach, Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, Advantage Coastal Alabama, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to provide matching funds of 3 percent each. The total match will be 15 percent of the grant, with each organization’s maximum obligation totaling $14,000.
The grant money and matching funds will be used to:
• Complete a catchment Analytics Study
• Costs associated with airline meetings and preparation
• Marketing costs for promotion of airport goods and services supporting awareness of the proposed terminal project
• Other expenses and studies required to achieve the goal of securing a letter of intent from an air carrier to move the terminal project forward.
In the last two years, the Authority has been working toward a Part 139 Certification. This certification would allow for regularly scheduled air service. Currently the airport only services chartered and military aircraft.
Fuller listed several small air carriers that have shown interest in servicing the area: Via Air, SkyWest, Contour, Southern Airways, and Elite. The Authority is also targeting Allegiant and Spirit airlines as well.
After the presentation, the floor opened to the council and community for questions and feedback. Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft asked, “will having a tower here have a little bit better monitoring of the touch and go Naval traffic?”
Fuller responded, “The purpose of a tower is safety and efficiency. A slight reduction in traffic during peak hours can be expected.”