Assessment outlines risks if BTL tower closed

A safety risk assessment (SRA) has identified potential hazards for aircraft using W.K. Kellogg Airport (BTL) in Battle Creek, Mich., if the airport’s control tower had been closed by the FAA because of sequestration.

JDA Aviation Technology Solutions (JDA) performed the assessment and published its results today in a Safety Risk Management Document (SRMD).

Substantial data exists regarding the value of air traffic control towers for safe flight operations, according to JDA officials.

“In general, the risks associated with loss of an air traffic control tower are significant and some cannot be mitigated,” officials said in a prepared release. “In fact, an FAA analysis of the National Transportation Safety Board database shows that mid-air collision occurrences increase 56% from a towered to non-towered environment. The benefit of the monitoring of situational awareness provided by air traffic controllers is especially important to general aviation to prevent safety mishaps.”

In response to the proposed closure of 149 federal air traffic control towers, the city of Battle Creek commissioned JDA to assess the risks associated with closing the tower. .

“The SRA provides us with a professional and FAA-prescribed methodology to assess the risks associated with closing an air traffic control tower (ATCT) at a high-activity, large general aviation airport such as W.K. Kellogg Airport,” said Larry Bowron, Transportation Director, City of Battle Creek. “Because of the large and diverse tenant base at BTL, combined with complicated airfield geometry, we have a very complex operating environment that undoubtedly requires air traffic control tower services to operate safe and efficiently. The SRA demonstrates this need and will be a valuable addition to our tool box to maintain ATCT services for years to come.”

“Conducting a Safety Risk Assessment should be standard procedure whenever major changes in equipment or procedures occur, not only to identify and mitigate any potential safety issues that may result, but to protect against potential liability should an accident occur after those changes. I believe the JDA team, with collectively more than 1,000 years of FAA, NTSB and industry experience in providing aviation safety services, is best positioned to perform that service,” said Joe Del Balzo, JDA’s CEO.

The SRA identified 60 preliminary hazards and 10 major hazard categories that were assessed for risk severity and likelihood. The risk assessment resulted in three High Risk, six Medium Risk and one Low Risk hazards.

A copy of the SRMD may be found at: BTL SRMD Air Traffic Control Tower Closure Final Report


  1. says

    The FAA is all about safety! Their campaign to close the towers was a complete contradiction of their reason for being. Their advertised reason of closing towers, based on annual operations alone was ludicrous. The FAA was breaking its own rules by not using their own research methodology of each proposed tower closure.

  2. says

    This article does not mention that KBTL is home to the busy Western Michigan University Flight School, which conducts thousands of training operations every year. On top of that, Mr. Bowron is right about the airport’s “complicated airfield geometry” with a parallel runways that can be-and often are-confused by student pilots.

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