SMYRNA – The Smyrna Airport’s historically important control tower has escaped the scalpel of cutbacks currently being ordered by federal officials in Washington, D.C., according to a recent accouncement.
Due to Smyrna Airport being the most used general aviation airport in Tennessee, the control tower’s continued operation is vital, Smyrna Airport Executive Director John Black said.
“Daily takeoffs and landings at our airport are steadily increasing, making the control tower more and more vital as progress and growth continues to come to Smyrna and Rutherford County,” Black said. “So, it was wonderful news Friday when it was confirmed our control tower remains open for daily trafficking purposes.”
Hundreds of e-mails, letters and phone calls by concerned area citizens to Tennessee’s congressional delegation in Washington helped result in the control tower remaining open, Black said.
Other airports weren't so lucky, with 147 similar control towers ordered closed by April. That makes Smyrna one of 32 across the nation to remain open.
The tower dates back to the 1942 when Sewart Air Force Base was first operational. The base closed in 1972.
And presently, there remains a heavy military component at the air facility.
“The fact that U.S. military operations continue making daily flights in and out of Smyrna Airport also helped in keeping the control tower operational,” Black said. “On Friday, for example, in addition to having the Tennessee Army National Guard’s regular fleet of Blackhawk helicopters in daily operations, we had two big military Super Cobras choppers fly, along with two other military aircraft, which happens on a regular basis.
“Plus, we average between 325 and 400 general aviation flights daily at our historic facility that figures heavily in future regional growth importance. Last year, we had a record year in gasoline sales from our fixed base operators, another indicator of growth and progress for our airport and region.”
The control tower being operational also brings increased safety considerations for the community, Smyrna Town Manager Mark O’Neal advised.
“It’s always safer to have the control tower operational, especially when you have multiple aircraft circling over our community,” O’Neal said. “Pilots will tell you they’re much better off talking to air traffic personel acting as air traffic-directing cops, rather than having to try to talk to other pilots to determine other planes’ proximity.”
Having the airport and its long runways is also a “big economic trigger” for Smyrna, O’Neal added.
“Having Smyrna Airport here, helps bring jobs and new companies to our community,” he said.
The airport, which goes back in regional importance to when construction started on Sewart Air Base in 1942, experienced a 7 percent increase in daily air traffic in 2012 over 2011, according to officials.
“The first two months of 2013, we’ve already seen a 2 percent increase in flights over the same period a year ago,” Black said.
As of Friday, there were also three promotional blimps being serviced and fueled at Smyrna Airport.
“We’re now a scheduled, regular service port for corporations that have promotional blimps flying throughout the nation,” Black added. “So, we’re very glad that federal officials recognize the importance of our airport and its control tower remaining operational.”