The skies aren’t so friendly above the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport in Parkersburg. Last week Airport Manager Terry Moore got word the FAA was shutting down the control tower and laying off the 5 tower employees.
“All the way to the end, we have a modicum of hope that somebody would come to their senses and not do it,” says Moore. “But obviously they didn’t.”
MOV isn’t alone. The FAA plans to close the towers at the Greenbrier County and Wheeling/Ohio County airports as well.
Moore says he knew last month that MOV was on the short list for tower closure. He was prepared for the bad news. But he says that doesn’t make it any easier.
“One of my large irritations is that there’s been no discussion whatsoever about my equipment that is in the tower and how am I going to get control of it,” explains Moore.
Without a tower, the airport needs the ability to turn on and off the runway lights or they face a flying restriction, service only from dawn to dusk. Moore says that’s bad news for travelers, even worse news for the local economy.
“Without us having that tower on the map, it kind of drops you down to second-class citizen status,” says Moore. “I think businesses will notice that and it will have a negative affect.”
As for how travelers will be impacted, Moore says really there won’t be much of a change.
“The pilots are already qualified to [land without a tower]. They are already familiar with the procedures. It should be basically transparent,” says Moore.
There’s a lot of questions left unanswered by the FAA according to Moore, things like what frequency the airport will be using and control of the emergency sirens. Moore says with the first of the tower closures set for April 7th, this is not something the FAA should put off another day.
“We are forming a committee. Hopefully we’ll meet this week with the local pilots association, the National Guard and the airport to review non-towered field procedures and see if there’s some extras that we need to implement here,” explains Moore.
As for the future of the tower at MOV, Moore says it looks bleak.
“We kind of always hold out hope but I think the longer they’re closed, the more likelihood they’ll remain closed forever.”
Meanwhile at the Greenbrier County Airport, manager Jerry O’Sullivan says losing their tower is very problematic. With the Greenbrier Resort hosting numerous conferences each year and dozens of plane flying in at a time, a tower is a necessity.
The Airport Authority has called an emergency meeting for Wednesday to discuss what comes next. O’Sullivan is hopeful the FAA will reconsider.