The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 2, 2013

Virtual air traffic control


— A blessing in disguise.

It’s hard to imagine anything good coming from the Federal Aviation Administration’s prior decision to close 150 air-traffic control towers due to budget cuts.

But that effort to cut costs while eliminating critical staff may be presenting our area with a great opportunity.

For the past several months, we’ve touted a new technology that is about to be implemented at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport.

A virtual air control tower.

Months ago, helped with the foresight that smaller airports may face extinction due to budget woes, Raleigh County went to work on a plan.

That plan included expanding its apron area and construction of larger hangars, mostly in anticipation of extensive Boy Scouts Jamboree traffic that will begin coming this summer, along with the already busy schedule it faces.

Funds were also set aside for research into the technology of a virtual tower.

The airport didn’t throw in the towel when the future looked bleak.

Even with the FAA plans being administered, Raleigh County forged ahead - daring to make its case as a viable hub for not only southern West Virginia but for the region.

The virtual tower concept sets Raleigh County Memorial apart. It appears to be an outstanding option in not only saving money, but saving lives.

Eliminating towers altogether is far too risky. Air safety should take precedent, but it seems that it didn’t.

But with a virtual tower, all goals could be accomplished.

It’s the cutting edge.

Word this week is that the virtual tower will get a trial run in July - appropriately, during the Jamboree.

Our hope is that the FAA will see the benefits of this technology - and will recognize the role that Raleigh County Memorial Airport played in its implementation.

This story stands as a great example of how rolling up your sleeves and getting to work, planning ahead, and getting prepared for both the best and worst of news that could come, is the way to solve any dilemma.

And maybe, perhaps, the FAA and other areas of federal government could learn some problem-solving and budget-planning lessons as well.

From the little airport in Raleigh County.